Judge Overturns Guilty Verdicts in MySpace Suicide

Wired:

A federal judge on Thursday overturned guilty verdicts against Lori Drew, issuing a directed acquittal on three misdemeanor charges.

Drew, 50, was accused of participating in a cyberbullying scheme against 13-year-old Megan Meier who later committed suicide. The case against Drew hinged on the government’s novel argument that violating MySpace’s terms of service was the legal equivalent of computer hacking. But U.S. District Judge George Wu found the premise troubling.

“It basically leaves it up to a website owner to determine what is a crime,” said Wu on Thursday, echoing what critics of the case have been saying for months. “And therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract.” [...]

Wu told Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Krause that if Drew had been convicted of the felonies, he would have let the convictions stand, and would have already sentenced her. But the misdemeanor convictions troubled him, because of the vague wording of the statute.

The decision does not become final until his written ruling is filed, probably next week.

Orin Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy wrote the definitive post — from before he decided to work on the case — on why the indictment should have been dismissed. He also wrote the leading law review article on the statute involved.

RELATED: Bad facts lead to bad law… Volokh on a proposed House bill that would make it a felony to use your blog, social media like MySpace and Facebook, or any other web media “To Cause Substantial Emotional Distress Through “Severe, Repeated, and Hostile” Speech.” Jacob Sullum of Reason doesn’t like it either. (Both via Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing.)

See also Techdirt and Wired’s Threat Level for more.

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