A federal grand jury has issued a subpoena to MySpace.com in a probe stemming from the suicide of a Missouri teenager who received cruel messages on the networking site that turned out to be a hoax, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors are considering charging a mother in the girl's neighborhood with defrauding MySpace by creating a false account that she, her daughter and a teenage employee used to fool 13-year-old Megan Meier into believing she was communicating with a 16-year-old boy, the Los Angeles Times said on its Web site, citing unidentified sources.
It said its sources insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
Megan, of suburban St. Louis, hanged herself in October 2006 after receiving cruel messages from the fictional boy she had befriended online, including one saying the world would be better off without her.
Mother was aware of the account
The neighborhood woman, Lori Drew, has denied creating the account but acknowledged being aware of it. She also has denied sending any messages to Megan or being aware of the unkind messages.
Prosecutors in Missouri declined to charge anyone because no laws appeared to apply to the case.
A Missouri state panel formed by Gov. Matt Blunt after the suicide met for the final time Tuesday and said it would recommend making certain types of harassment a felony, such as if anyone 21 or older harasses people 17 and younger.
Several grand jury subpoenas issued last week included one to MySpace and others to witnesses, the Times reported.
Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, told the AP he could not comment on grand jury matters, which are secret.
Lori Drew's attorney Jim Briscoe told the AP that the Drews had not been subpoenaed, and that he did not know of anyone else who had received a subpoena.
"I do not know if it's true," he said of the report.
MySpace officials had no immediate comment.
Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Loyola University Law School, told The Associated Press that if the government convened a grand jury it would be trying to create a case in which MySpace would be the victim of a fraud — meaning the person who perpetrated the fraud could be prosecuted.
"The whole case is curious," she said, and could raise First Amendment issues of free speech.
The Times reported that its sources said federal prosecutors in Los Angeles believe they have jurisdiction because MySpace is based in Beverly Hills.