Lori Drew, the woman accused of orchestrating an online hoax that allegedly led to the suicide of her teenage neighbor, planned to lure the girl to the mall and taunt her, prosecutors claim in court papers filed this week.
Drew also allegedly told several people, including her hairdresser, that she and others were posing as a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans on MySpace and using the online account to communicate with 13-year-old Megan Meier, prosecutors say.
Federal prosecutors claim that Drew, her daughter and her daughter's friend, Ashley Grills, pretended to be Josh Evans and first befriended and then taunted Meier, who lived down the street from the Drews in Dardenne Prairie, Mo. Meier hanged herself in her bedroom closet in 2006, shortly after Grills, posing as "Josh," allegedly told her that the world would be a better place without her.
Drew has been charged with conspiracy and unauthorized access to a protected computer with the intent to get information to cause emotional distress, a felony. Drew has denied being involved in the hoax and pleaded not guilty. Her lawyer declined to comment.
Drew is scheduled to go on trial next month. Her daughter and other alleged conspirators have not been charged.
In the court papers, prosecutors allege that Drew encouraged her daughter and Grills to flirt with Meier using the Josh Evans MySpace account.
When it became clear that Meier was attracted to Josh, Drew allegedly proposed that they lure Meier to the mall, where they would reveal the hoax and taunt her with information from her MySpace page, the court papers say.
Drew also allegedly told several people, including her hairdresser and a business associate, that she was playing a joke on Meier and "denied any untoward purpose and dismissed concerns over her 'prank,'" prosecutors claim.
After Meier killed herself, Drew and her husband allegedly told others to delete the MySpace account. She also allegedly told another neighborhood girl, who had also pretended to be Josh and told Meier that Josh no longer wanted to be her friend, to "keep her mouth shut" and "stay off MySpace," the court papers claim.
The case, first revealed by a local newspaper, quickly captured the public imagination and sparked new discussion about so-called cyber bullying. Once Drew's name was made public, she and her family were harassed and received death threats.
Local and federal prosecutors in Missouri declined to charge Drew, saying no laws had been broken. A grand jury in Los Angeles, where MySpace's servers are based, indicted Drew in May.
Drew's lawyers have moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that the federal computer fraud statute does not apply to alleged cyber-bullying and that the charges are unconstitutionally vague.
Drew knew the Meiers and lived down the street from them in Missouri for years. "This adult woman allegedly used the Internet to target a young teenage girl, with horrendous ramifications," said U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien in a written statement when Drew was indicted.
At the time, Drew's family said in a statement released by their attorney, H. Dean Steward, "We are deeply saddened to hear of return of federal charges against Lori Drew ... The US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles has taken a tragic case and added to that tragedy by their unfounded indictment."