'Cyberbully' Mom Pleads Not Guilty In MySpace Case

The O'Fallon, Mo., mother is specifically charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress on 13-year-old Megan Meier, an acquaintance of her daughter. In addition to Drew, her daughter and another teen were reportedly involved in the harassment; all have denied their involvement.

U.S. District Court Judge George Wu is overseeing the case, according to Reuters. Drew was freed on $20,000 bond, and a status conference is slated for June 26. A trial is scheduled for July 29.

Drew is accused of posing as a boy on MySpace using the alias "Josh Evans" and sending messages to Meier. Starting in September 2006, the messages reportedly were friendly and expressed romantic interest in Meier and later became abusive. Meir, who was characterized by her mother as having depression and self-esteem issues, committed suicide.

The case was investigated by special agents with the FBI in St. Louis and Los Angeles.

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In the indictment, MySpace was identified as the "operator of the site, [which] acted as an ISP." The case was taken to Los Angeles, where MySpace owner Fox Entertainment Media is located, after attempts to charge Drew and the others in Missouri failed.

U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien has said the case is the first time the statute known as the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which covers accessing protected computers, has been used in a social-networking case.

In a statement, O'Brien said "Drew and her co-conspirators violated MySpace's 'terms of service' that prohibit users from, among other things, using fraudulent registration information, using accounts to obtain personal information about juvenile members, and using the MySpace communication services to harass, abuse or harm other members."

O'Brien said Drew "violated rules established to protect young, vulnerable people. Any adult who uses the Internet or a social gathering Web site to bully or harass another person, particularly a young teenage girl, needs to realize that their actions can have serious consequences."

Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, echoed O'Brien's statements and said that adults need to be sensitive to the potential dangers posed by the use of the Internet by children.

"Whether we characterize this tragic case as 'cyberbullying,' cyberabuse or illegal computer access, it should serve as a reminder that our children use the Internet for social interaction and that technology has altered the way they conduct their daily activities."

According to Wired magazine, a blogger has since published Drew's name online and other bloggers then dug up Drew's personal information and posted her husband's name, family address, phone number and cell phone number. In addition, the advertising company owned by the Drews was targeted when bloggers listed their clients' contact information and called for a boycott of the business.