Lori Drew Case

MSNBC News Live

5/16/2008 8:13 am

ALEX WITT: A Minnesota woman accused of internet bullying that has led to a teen suicide is now facing unprecedented federal charges. The mother, Laurie Drew, allegedly helped create the false identity of a teenage boy with a Myspace account just to communicate with 13 year old Megan Meier. Megan thought she was talking to that boy online and hanged herself at home after receiving cruel messages from the fake account, including one saying that the “world would be better off without her.” Laurie Drew has denied creating that account and sending any messages to Megan. She is charged with conspiracy and fraudulent actions in gaining access to someone else’s computer. Joining us now live from Miami to sort out the legal questions that this case raises is former U.S. attorney, Kendall Coffey. Good morning to you Kendall.

KENDALL COFFEY: Hey, good morning Alex.

ALEX WITT: You know this is unprecedented in many ways. It raises all sorts of legal questions in this situation. Look, the internet is a world into itself. People go online and do all kinds of things, so why would what this woman did, why would that be potentially criminal. It was nasty if it was true – it was wrong morally but criminally, is it wrong?

KENDALL COFFEY: Well, I think it probably will be. It’s a little bit of a stretch but when cases have these kinds of appallingly bad facts and high visibility, they have a lot of stretch power. The creativity here by the feds is they’ve taken a computer fraud statute and said that Myspace is a victim of computer fraud. Why, because they were given false information about the identity. Of course we all know that, even though Myspace was technically the victim, this indictment is all about seeking justice for Megan.

ALEX WITT: Okay. This woman faces five years in prison if she is convicted on all four charges to the fullest extent of the law. Do you think the punishment fits the crime if there was no direct intent to cause the teen’s death?

KENDALL COFFEY: Well, the feds clearly want to send a message here and even though the theoretical prison time could be twenty years, under the guidelines it’s going to be a lot less than that. But if you think about it, this was pretty heartless – a parent snooping, invading the privacy of a 13-year old child – and if it turns out that Lori Drew is convicted and if she knew about some of the psychological depression issues challenging Megan I think you could very well be seeing some prison time here for Laurie Drew.

ALEX WITT: Okay, so you’re a prosecutor. Let’s have you switch hats here and take off in defense of this woman. Apparently federal prosecutors say “here’s the deal” – when she found out what was coming down she told a young lady who was familiar with this account to keep her mouth shut. Is there something wrong in doing that? Is that obstructing justice in some way? Can that come to harm her as well in a court case?

KENDALL COFFEY: Oh, I think it will definitely be a question of concealment. I think what the defense is going to try to do, is first of all, it’s going to be Laurie Drew with the hear no evil, see no evil defense, trying to put everything on the youthful employee who actually created the fictitious Myspace account. But, Alex, one of the interesting questions is going to be Does the defense try to put Megan’s own parents on trial, saying there wasn’t enough parental supervision, after all 13-year old Megan was not supposed to be using a Myspace account in the first place which requires her to be 14 years old. So don’t be surprised if the defense considers a “would of, could of, should of done” kind of theory which charges Megan’s own parents.

ALEX WITT: This is going to be very interesting to follow, former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey. Good to see you. Thanks so much.