Lori Drew Trial Ongoing, Legal Issues Still Unclear

Lori Drew's trial for allegedly violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) began this week.  There has been some great coverage of the proceedings, including the following highlights:

A couple of noteworthy points:

First, the prosecution's star witness Ashley Grill, Drew's former employee, admitted that it was her idea to set up the fake MySpace account for "Josh Evans" and that she sent the last message from "Josh" to Megan Meier in October 2006 saying that the world would be a better place without Megan.  Grill testified that Drew and Drew's daughter Sarah were with her when she created the fake account, but that none of them read MySpace's terms of service.  Daniel Solove aptly suggests that, if the prosecution fails to introduce further evidence that Drew knew that she was violating MySpace's terms of service, then she might be entitled to a directed verdict dismissing the case.

Second, the defense elicited on cross examination of Tina Meier that Megan herself created a fake MySpace profile in December 2005, pretending to be an eighteen-year-old.  This ironic tidbit just underscores how widespread terms of service violations are and how dangerous the prosecution's theory of the CFAA could be.

Finally, while all the dramatic testimony is a great boon to the media, it seems potentially wasteful to go through all of this before the court rules on Drew's motion to dismiss the indictment.  If Drew is right that her alleged conduct cannot form the basis of a CFAA violation, then there's no reason to spend days and days on the specifics of Drew's conduct or the morbidly fascinating details of Megan's last months and days.

For background and access to underlying court documents, see our database entry, United States v. Drew.


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