3 years in prison sought for MySpace hoax

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Missouri mother should serve three years in prison for her role in a MySpace hoax on a 13-year-old neighbor who committed suicide, federal prosecutors said in court documents filed Wednesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Krause outlined the government's position while requesting the maximum sentence for Lori Drew. Probation officials have recommended Drew receive a year of probation and a $5,000 fine.

Krause argued that Drew "coldly conceived of a scheme to humiliate" Megan Meier, a neighbor in a St. Louis suburb, by helping create a fictitious teenage boy on the social networking site and sending flirtatious messages in his name to the girl.

The fake boy then dumped Megan in a message saying the world would be better without her. She hanged herself a short time later.

Drew used her then-13-year-old daughter and a business assistant in the scheme, which played on Megan's insecurities, Krause said.

"Both the callousness of defendant's criminal conduct and the extraordinary harm it caused mandate a sentence of more than probation," Krause wrote.

Convicted of three counts
Drew was convicted in November of three counts of accessing computers without authorization. Besides up to three years in prison, she could face a $300,000 fine at sentencing set for May 18.

Drew's attorney, Dean Steward, has asked U.S. District Court Judge George Wu to throw out the verdicts.

Steward said his client couldn't afford the $5,000 fine recommended by probation officials because she no longer draws income from the coupon book business she had for nine years.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Drew violated MySpace rules by setting up the phony profile for a boy named "Josh Evans." Jurors decided Drew was not guilty of the more serious felonies of intentionally causing emotional harm while accessing computers without authorization.

The jury could not reach an unanimous verdict on a felony conspiracy charge.

Drew was not directly charged with causing Megan's death.

Expert: Prosecutors 'gung-ho'
Some legal experts believe prosecutors are still smarting over the conviction on lesser crimes. In his filing, Krause continued to argue there is convincing evidence that shows Drew set out to inflict emotional harm to Megan.

"They are just totally gung-ho on this case," Matt Levine, a New York-based defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said about prosecutors. "On one hand, what Lori Drew did was egregious and she should be brought to justice, but they have used the wrong legal theory here."

Levine said it would have been more appropriate for Missouri authorities to charge Drew with harassment. Police there, however, have said they didn't file any charges against Drew in part because there was no applicable state law.

The trial was held in Los Angeles because the servers of the social networking site are in the area.