Mom: Verdict shows cyberbullies will be punished

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The mother of a girl who committed suicide at age 13 after being subjected to an Internet hoax says a woman's conviction in the case shows that people who bully others online will face consequences.

Lori Drew, 49, of O'Fallon, Mo., was convicted Wednesday in federal court in Los Angeles on misdemeanor charges of accessing computers without authorization in a landmark cyberbullying trial, though her lawyer said he still hopes a judge will dismiss the charges against her.

Prosecutors said Drew and two others created a fictitious 16-year-old boy on MySpace and sent flirtatious messages from him to teenage neighbor Megan Meier. The "boy" dumped Megan in 2006, telling her: "The world would be a better place without you."

Megan hanged herself with a belt in her bedroom closet.

Megan's mother, Tina Meier, said in a telephone interview Friday that she'll ask at sentencing that Drew serve the maximum penalty, three years in prison and a $300,000 fine.

She said she's grateful that federal prosecutors in California filed charges after Missouri officials did not. MySpace, a social networking service, has computer servers in California.

Meier said Drew's conviction didn't bring closure for her daughter's 2006 death, but she said she takes some comfort in her work to protect children against bullying and will continue speaking publicly around the nation.

She believes the verdict against Drew will lead to more action to prevent, and prosecute, bullying and harassment. "We all have to be able to understand if you do something wrong, you have to face the consequences," Meier said.

Drew's lawyer, Dean Steward, said he is not yet planning an appeal because he had asked U.S. District Judge George Wu to dismiss the charges during the trial and Steward has said the matter is still under advisement. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 29.

Steward said the jury had only determined that Drew had violated her terms of service with MySpace, not that cyberbullying had occurred. The terms prohibit the use of phony names and harassment of other MySpace members.

Tina Meier works with the WiredSafety.org group to tell Megan's story in an effort to protect children from cyberbullying. Parry Aftab, a lawyer and executive director of the group, said she believes Drew's conviction will change the environment related to cyberbullying and cyberstalking.

"The verdict has made it very clear if you use the Internet as a weapon to hurt others, especially young, vulnerable teens, you're going to have to answer to a jury. This is not acceptable."

(This version subs lede to correct Meier's quote.)

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