No charges in MySpace suicide case

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 9:18 PM | 0 comments »

No charges ... prosecutors say they will not lay charges against a woman accused to tormenting 13-year-old Megan Meier over the internet.

A prosecutor said on Monday he will not file criminal charges in the case of Megan Meier, the teenage girl who committed suicide after being bullied on the internet.

St. Charles County prosecutor Jack Banas said that while he understands the public outrage, he could not find statutes allowing him to charge anyone in the case.

The parents of 13-year-old Megan, who hanged herself last year, said her suicide was the result of harassment she was subjected to on the MySpace social networking site.

They have blamed their neighbour, then 47-year-old Lori Drew, for participating in that harassment using a fabricated a MySpace profile of a teenage boy called Josh Evans.

"Josh" pretended to be interested in Megan before he began bullying her.

On October 16, last year, "Josh" sent his final message, telling Megan the world "would be a better place" without her.

Soon afterwards, Tina Meier found her daughter hanging from a cloth cord.

Megan died the next day, and weeks later her family learned that a boy she had been communicating with online did not actually exist.

Banas, the prosecutor, said that although Lori Drew knew about the fake MySpace page she had not created it.

He said it had been set up by an 18-year-old employee of the Drews who was also responsible for that final message.

A police report indicates others gained access to the profile, though those involved dispute who thought up the idea for the site and who was present when messages were sent.

Banas said he took a look at the case after federal authorities said no federal crime was committed. He said he reviewed laws related to stalking, harassment and child endangerment before making his announcement.

Banas said harassment and stalking laws both require proof that communication was made to frighten, disturb or harass someone.

In this case, he said, the fictitious MySpace profile was created not to bully Megan, but to find out what she was saying about Lori Drew's then 13-year-old daughter.

Megan and Lori's daughter had been friends but had a falling out..

"There are a few statements at the end that are a heated argument," Banas said. "That's why you have a hard time making a harassment case."

Reaction to the case has been strong, with angry postings on the internet outing the Drews as the neighbours involved in the ruse.

The Drew household has reported vandalism, including a brick through a window, once word got out about the circumstances surrounding the death. Police have stepped up patrols in the area.

Banas said it's his understanding that Lori Drew's daughter is now being home-schooled. He added that the employee who was also involved is hospitalised and receiving psychiatric treatment.

Megan's family has been seeking legal changes since it became clear in recent weeks that it was unlikely anyone would be charged.

"We were certainly hopeful that there was going to be some sort of prosecution, but I'm certainly not surprised," Tina Meier, said on Monday.

Two Missouri communities, including Megan's hometown, have changed local laws to make internet harassment a crime, and several others are considering measures. Changes are also being proposed to state law.

Tina Meier said the bottom line for her was that Lori Drew knew about the fake profile, knew Megan was on medication, and let the hoax continue. She said the fake profile was deleted right after Megan's death. Then, she said, Lori Drew didn't come clean.

"Our daughter died, committed suicide, and she still didn't say a word," Meier said. "I still feel what she did is absolutely criminal."

Meier previously has acknowledged that Megan was too young to have a MySpace account under the website's guidelines, but she added that she was able to closely monitor the account. Meier's family has also acknowledged that Megan was also sending mean messages before her death.

Megan was being treated for attention deficit disorder and depression, her family has said.

Tina Meier said those involved will have to live with the choices they made, and said perhaps one day the 18-year-old will be able to educate people against cyberbullying.

"I really hope she gets the help she needs, and I don't think she meant for this to happen to Megan," she said.

Of Megan's former friend, she said: "I certainly don't wish her any harm. Unfortunately, she doesn't get to pick her parents."