Most hated woman on the Internet gets off with a wrist slap
posted at 4:14 pm on November 26, 2008 by Allahpundit
It’s a testament to how hated she is, in fact, that I’ll bet half our readers guessed who I mean straightaway from the headline.
Wired has everything you need, including background on precisely what Drew did. Acquitted of felony charges, hung jury on the conspiracy charge, convicted of just three misdemeanor counts of unauthorized computer access — which themselves may end up getting tossed on appeal. Even if they hold up, the maximum sentence for each is just one year, which means she could do less time than the tool who broke into Palin’s e-mail account.
On to the civil suit, I guess.
Tina Meier, the mother of the girl, shook her head silently from the gallery as the verdict was read.
U.S. District Judge George Wu has not yet ruled on a defense motion that, if granted, would overturn even the misdemeanors for lack of evidence, and result in a judgment of acquittal. It’s also unclear whether the government will seek a new trial on the deadlocked conspiracy charge…
[P]rosecutors in Los Angeles sought to indict Drew, charging her with unauthorized access to MySpace’s computers, using a federal anti-hacking statute known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Prosecutors charged that Drew was guilty of the crime by violating MySpace’s terms-of-service agreement when she and her co-conspirators allegedly provided false information to open the account and pose online as the 16-year-old boy.
MySpace’s user agreement requires registrants, among other things, to provide factual information about themselves and to refrain from soliciting personal information from minors or using information obtained from MySpace services to harass or harm other people. By allegedly violating that click-to-agree contract, Drew committed the same crime as any hacker, prosecutors claimed.
The novel use of the statute was criticized by numerous legal experts who said the case set a “scary” precedent and potentially made a felon out of anyone who violates the terms-of-service of any website.
The felony charges appear to have been identical to the misdemeanor charges but with the added element of intending to inflict emotional distress on the victim — which is the one part that I thought was open and shut. How they convicted her on the lesser offense but not the greater is unclear. Even so, this seems like a case of the law not having caught up yet to modern facts: The computer stuff is incidental to the crime everyone really wants to see her charged with, either conspiracy to commit murder or some specie of manslaughter, for having tossed emotional grenades at a kid she should have known was unstable. For whatever reason, probably lack of evidence of specific intent to kill, they couldn’t get her on those so they were forced to resort to penny ante Internet fraud charges that were unequal to the task and might have set a perverse precedent. The silver lining is that this comes just a week after that poor kid killed himself live on webcam while people egged him on, so legislatures will probably be revisiting the subject soon of just how vicious you’re allowed to be to someone whom you know is on the edge. There’s a huge risk of overreach, needless to say, but this stuff does keep happening so some well measured deterrence would be welcome. Read See-Dubya’s post on Suzy’s Law from last year to see one way it could go.