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MySpace victim’s mom disappointed by ruling

Tina Meier had hoped to see her neighbor and former friend, Lori Drew, go to prison for her role in the online hoax that caused Meier's 13-year-old daughter, Megan, to end her life. But even though a judge is throwing out Drew's conviction, Meier believes Drew didn't get away with anything.“I wouldn’t want to be in Lori Drew’s shoes and live her life. I think she’s already basically living
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Tina Meier had hoped to see her neighbor and former friend, Lori Drew, go to prison for her role in the online hoax that caused Meier's 13-year-old daughter, Megan, to end her life. But even though a judge is throwing out Drew's conviction, Meier believes Drew didn't get away with anything.

“I wouldn’t want to be in Lori Drew’s shoes and live her life. I think she’s already basically living a life conviction right now,” Meier said Friday on TODAY, a day after U.S. District Judge George Wu indicated he was vacating a jury’s verdict and acquitting Drew of misdemeanor counts of accessing computers without authorization.

“People used to say that it was vengeance that I wanted. That’s ridiculous,” Meier told TODAY’s Natalie Morales in her first interview since Thursday’s ruling from the bench.

Meier admitted, however, that she was disappointed in the decision.

“As Megan’s mom, I wanted to see her go to jail, because I think it needed to set a precedent,” Meier said. “I think it needed to let people know: You get on the computer, you use it as a weapon to hurt, to harm, to harass people, this is not something that people can just walk away from. This is many times the teen’s lifeline.”

Still, Meier said, her daughter’s death focused attention on cyber bullying and led to several state laws and a proposed federal law to address the growing problem. In that sense, she said, there is some justice for her tragedy.

“For me, because we’ve continued to be able to get the word out and hopefully share the story and hopefully make changes in households, making teens maybe think once or twice, absolutely I think there is justice in Megan's name,” Meier told Morales.

Meier’s daughter, who had suffered from attention deficit disorder and depression, committed suicide by hanging herself in her suburban St. Louis bedroom in 2006 after a boy she had met on the MySpace social networking site told her “the world would be a better place without you.”

The boy, “Josh Evans,” and his MySpace page had been created by Drew as a way to find out if Megan was spreading rumors about Drew’s daughter, Sarah, who had once been Megan’s friend. After befriending Megan, who became infatuated with the boy, “Josh” turned on her.

The last message Megan typed to “Josh” was: “You are the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.”

A federal case

When it was learned that Josh was the creation of Drew, her daughter and a business associate, Missouri prosecutors investigated but determined that there was no state cyber bullying statute under which Drew could be prosecuted. Federal prosecutors took over the case and indicted Drew under a statute that was written to prosecute hackers. The case was tried in Los Angeles, because that’s where MySpace had its servers.

Judge Wu said that the jury essentially found Drew guilty of violating MySpace’s terms of service by setting up an account for a fictitious person.

“If [Lori Drew] is to be found guilty of illegally accessing computers, anyone who has ever violated the social networking site’s terms of service would be guilty of a misdemeanor. That would be unconstitutional,” Wu said, adding that it could mean that even those who lie about their age on networking sites would be guilty of a crime.

After Wu’s ruling, which still needs to be finalized in writing, Drew issued a statement through her attorney that read: "In my view, it was proper that this case was dismissed, primarily because I simply did not do what the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles accused me of doing. All members of my family share the Meier's grief in dealing with the loss of Megan. I hope Judge Wu's decision today will be a turning point for all families involved in returning to a more-normal life."

Meier, who said she has not decided whether to pursue a civil suit against Drew, said the statement did not constitute an apology and was woefully inadequate.

Indeed, cyber bullying continues to be a growing problem. Almost at the same time that Wu made his ruling, a New York State mother was charged with similar actions in a case involving a rival of her 9-year-old daughter.

After Megan’s death, Meier established the Megan Meier Foundation, which is dedicated to campaigning for federal legislation against cyber bullying and educating the public about the dangers that lurk on the Internet. U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California has introduced a bill which Meier hopes becomes law.

The proposed legislation would make it a federal crime to send any communications with intent to cause "substantial emotional distress."

“Laws are not going to prevent every single person from cyber bullying. We know that from drunk driving and other laws that are out there,” Meier told Morales. “We need to make sure it’s a good law, it sets a precedent, and to let people know if you get on a computer to harass to harm to threaten to stalk and to distort people’s images - it’s not going to be tolerated.”