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Columbia Missourian

Jury convicts mom of lesser charges in Internet suicide case

By Associated Press
November 26, 2008 | 1:54 p.m. CST

LOS ANGELES — A jury on Wednesday was unable to reach a verdict on the main conspiracy charge and instead convicted a Missouri woman of three minor offenses for her role in an Internet hoax that apparently drove a 13-year-old girl to suicide.

The Los Angeles federal court jury rejected felony charges of accessing a computer without authorization to inflict emotional distress on young Megan Meier.

However, the jury found defendant Lori Drew guilty of three counts of the lesser offense of accessing a computer without authorization. Each count is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

The jurors could not reach a verdict on a conspiracy count, and U.S. District Court Judge George Wu declared a mistrial on the charge.

She could have been sentenced to a total of 20 years in prison if convicted of the four original counts.

Prosecutors said Drew violated the MySpace terms of service by conspiring with her young daughter and a business assistant to create a fictitious profile of a teen boy on the MySpace social networking site to harass Megan.

Megan, who had been treated for depression, hanged herself with a belt in her bedroom closet in 2006 after receiving a message saying the world would be better without her.