LOS ANGELES -- A federal judge is considering a defense request to dismiss the case against a Missouri woman accused of sending cruel Internet messages to a 13-year-old girl who later committed suicide.
The defense claimed Friday that 49-year-old Lori Drew cannot be held responsible for violating the service rules of MySpace because she never read them. U.S. District Judge George Wu said he will issue a ruling Monday.
Federal Prosecutors continued their efforts to paint a bizarre portrait of suburban mom Lori Drew Friday, as a somewhat too-involved parent who allegedly concocted a plan to humiliate a teenaged neighbor online.
The girl -- 13-year old Megan Meier -- committed suicide just moments after consulting her MySpace page in October 2006.
Prosecutors called two women from Drew's inner circle of friends in the Missouri neighborhood where it happened.
Eugenia Finnegan testified that she had known Drew for twenty years, and had visited her house to fix a computer problem for her friend several weeks before Meier's death. She said she saw Drew's daughter, Sarah, and another girl chatting online with one of the Drews' household computers.
"They were both taking turns," Finnegan said. "Ashley would type something; then Sarah would type something.
"They said they were 'playing a joke' on Megan Meier."
Finnegan said she asked Drew if she knew what was going on, to which Drew replied: "Yes, and it's none of your business."
Prosecutors contend that the girls -- at Drew's urging and with her consent -- had created a fictional online profile on MySpace, a teenaged boy named "Josh Evans." Over a period of several weeks, Megan may have believed she was developing a romantic relationship with the boy, but it ended abruptly when "Josh" began insulting her, eventually telling her "the world would be a better place without you" the night she hanged herself.
In an unusual effort to prosecute alleged "cyber-bullying," the government's case charges Lori Drew with four counts of computer fraud and conspiracy, with MySpace as the "victim."
Finnegan said the purpose of the ruse was ostensibly to find out what kinds of rumors Megan Meier was allegedly spreading about Drew's daughter. She said Lori Drew even showed her printouts of online conversations Megan and "Josh" had shared on the site.
Prosecutor Mark Krause asked, "Did you find this strange?"
"Yes," said Finnegan.
Another Lori Drew confidante, Michele Mulford, testified that she had asked Drew why she and the other girls had set up the phony account.
"'To mess with Megan,'" Mulford quoted Drew as saying.
Mulford's testimony about Drew's response to Meier's death also mirrored that of prosecution witness Ashley Grills, who took the stand Thursday.
On the night of the suicide four houses down, said Mulford, Drew told her "they had panicked when they heard the sirens. She said, 'delete the MySpace.'"
Drew's defense attorney, Dean Steward, has attempted to discredit several insider accounts by indicating that none of the women who have provided the most explosive testimony for the government had returned his calls, letters or questions during the months leading up to the trial.
Prosecution testimony is expected to end either Friday or Monday.
Grills, who was granted immunity for her testimony, testified that she typed the final e-mail message sent to the emotionally disturbed girl.
Grills, 20, of St. Louis, testified that she came up with the idea of inventing a MySpace page for a fictional boy named "Josh" and then using it to first befriend, then torment, 13-year-old Megan Meier.
After Grills sent Meier an e-mail saying the world would be better off without her, the teen, who was being treated for depression and attention deficit disorder, sent "Josh" an instant message back, telling him "you're the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over," Grills said.
After they read Meier's response, Grills, Drew and Drew's teenage daughter "got off the Internet and watched TV," Grills said.
At the same time, four doors down the street, Meier hanged herself in her bedroom closet, prosecutors said.
Minutes later, the trio on the couch heard sirens, Grills said.
"A guy who was working on the house told us that an ambulance had just pulled up at the Meier house," Grills, a former family friend and employee of Drew, told the six-man, six woman jury. "We heard that Megan had hung herself."
Drew, Grills continued, "was kind of quiet for a second and then her husband started yelling at us to get rid of the MySpace" account for "Josh."
Grills said Drew immediately began consoling her daughter, saying, "We could've pushed her overboard because she was depressed and suicidal."
The bulk of testimony in the case has focused on Meier's death. But as Drew's attorney, Dean Steward, has repeatedly noted outside the jury's presence, his client -- a married mother of two from the St. Louis suburbs -- is not charged with murder.
But it's because of the suicide that the case came to national attention.
Grills said the creation of "Josh" was her idea, but Drew gave it her blessing. The boy was meant to be "a skater kid with a bad attitude who lived with his mom and had lots of problems and was home-schooled."
That description, along with a generic photo of an unknown 16-year-old "surfer kid" plucked from Google, was enough to cause the troubled, overweight Meier to become smitten, Grills said.
Grills said Drew thought the "Josh" scheme to gain Meier's trust "was a good idea and thought it was funny."
But when Grills voiced concerns that creating a fake MySpace profile might be illegal and they could land in hot water, Grills said Drew answered, "It's fine because people do it all the time."
"I kind of figured it was against the rules" to create a fake profile on MySpace, Grills said.
During sessions around the computer, Grills, Drew, Drew's husband Kurt and Sarah Drew all joined in to compose messages for "Josh" to send to Meier, Grills testified.
If convicted of all counts, Drew faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.