Jury Finds Lori Drew Not Guilty on Felony Charges

Wired/Threat Level reports:

Lori Drew, the 49-year-old woman charged in the first federal cyberbullying case, was cleared of felony computer-hacking charges by a jury Wednesday morning, but convicted of three misdemeanors. The jury deadlocked on a remaining felony charge of conspiracy.

It's not entirely clear how the jury could have found Drew guilty on the misdemeanor charges and not the felony charges.  The felony counts required the government to show that Drew gained unauthorized access to MySpace's servers to obtain information "to further tortious acts," namely inflicting emotional distress on Megan Meier.  Indictment ¶ 18.  I'm not 100% sure on the details, but it sounds like the misdemeanor charges required only unauthorized access for purposes of gathering information about Megan (i.e., not in order to "further tortious acts").  One would have thought that proving "unauthorized access" was the hard part of the government's case, not showing that Drew and her gang intended to inflict emotional distress on Megan (which seems pretty obvious).

In any event, Judge Wu has not yet ruled on Drew's motions to dismiss the indictment for failure to state an offense and for judgment of acquittal based on lack of evidence of intent, either of which could result in the complete dismissal of all charges against Drew.  This is where the important legal precedent will be set, because the court will finally have to decide whether or not violating a website's terms of use is a federal criminal offense and, if so, whether someone can commit that crime without even reading the relevant terms of use. 

The Wired/Threat Level post has links to all of Kim Zetter's fantastic coverage of the trial.


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