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Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Tuesday, 17 June 2008 11:45 UK

US woman denies 'cyber-bullying'

Court drawing of Lori Drew
Prosecutors have used a federal statute to charge Lori Drew

A woman alleged to have used a fake MySpace profile to bully a girl who later killed herself has pleaded not guilty at a trial in Los Angeles.

Lori Drew, 49, allegedly posed as a boy on the website to befriend Megan Meier, 13, who hanged herself after the "boy" broke off the virtual relationship.

Ms Drew, from Missouri, denies charges of conspiracy and accessing protected computers without authorisation.

Each of the four counts against her carries a maximum five-year jail term.

Test case

Megan Meier, a neighbour of Ms Drew in St Louis, Missouri, took her own life in October 2006.

It is alleged that she killed herself after receiving several cruel messages from a fictitious 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans, including one saying the world would be better off without her.

Prosecutors say Ms Drew and several others created the boy on MySpace, the social networking website, after Megan Meier fell out with her daughter.

Tina Meier
Megan Meier's mother Tina has begun a campaign against cyber-bullying
However they were unable to find any existing laws within the state of Missouri under which Ms Drew could be tried.

As a result, federal prosecutors from Los Angeles, where the servers for MySpace are located, have brought charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act - usually used against computer hackers.

Los Angeles federal prosecutor Thomas O'Brien, who brought the charges, has acknowledged this is the first time the federal statute on accessing protected computers has been used in a social networking case.

Dean Steward, a lawyer representing Ms Drew in the federal case, told the Associated Press a legal challenge to the charges was planned.

Ms Drew has been allowed home on bail while the case is pending.


SEE ALSO
US 'cyber-bully' mother indicted
16 May 08 |  Americas


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