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Mother of Cyberbullying Victim Testifies in the MySpace Suicide Trial

by Gopalan on November 21, 2008 at 11:22 AM
 Mother of Cyberbullying Victim Testifies in the MySpace Suicide Trial

As the landmark cyberbullying case went on trial in a Los Angeles court in US, the mother of the 13-year-old victim Megan Meier testified Wednesday afternoon.

The girl hanged herself in her upstairs bedroom, shortly after being jilted by an Internet suitor she thought was a 16-year-old boy. The case caused a national furor when it was alleged that the "boy" was actually Lori Drew, the mother of one of Megan's former friends.

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Two months before she committed suicide in 2006, Megan was the happiest her parents had seen her in a long time.

Tina Meier, testifying in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon, described to jurors how her daughter Megan was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder and depression in the third grade and had spent years taking prescription medication and battling low self-esteem exacerbated by bullying schoolmates.
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Megan's spirits lifted when she switched schools in August 2006, her mother said. The teen's outlook improved even more a month later when a "hot" 16-year-old boy named "Josh Evans" contacted her out of the blue through her MySpace page and told her he wanted to become her friend.

Less than a month later, "Josh" turned on Megan. He joined others taunting her with cruel and venomous comments. After he sent her a message saying, "the world would be a better place without you," Megan responded, "You are the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over." Thirty minutes later, she hanged herself in her bedroom closet with a belt.

The 49-year-old Lori Drew is charged with violating MySpace's terms of service by conspiring with her daughter and an assistant to set up the hoax "Josh Evans" account and torment Megan. Ashley Grills, a then-18-year-old woman employed by Drew and her husband, has admitted sending the final message to Megan while posing as Evans. Grills has been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for her cooperation with the government, and is scheduled to testify against Drew.

As Meier described her daughter's end, several family members sitting in the courtroom's front row - including her ex-husband Ron Meier, and aunt Vicki Dunn - sobbed and dabbed their eyes with Kleenex. Two of the male jurors brought their hands to their chins, listening intently, but there was little to indicate how the jury of six men and six women absorbed the testimony.

While defense attorney H. Dean Steward called Meier's testimony "totally improper in a computer fraud case, " Drew's hair-dresser testified that her customer had gloated over her newly acquired Internet identity and the decoy set for the innocent Megan.

Hairdresser Christina Chu described a 2006 hair appointment in which Drew - daughter in tow - boasted that she'd worked with her assistant to set up a fake MySpace profile for the purpose of getting back at Megan for a fight she'd had with her daughter, Sarah.

"Mom, stop, you're embarrassing me," Sarah said, according to Chu.

Chu, who had a teenage daughter of her own, was so upset by the story that she had to retreat to the back of the salon, she testified, but not before telling Drew that what she was doing was wrong.

After Meier's death, on the day of her wake, Drew showed up again to have her hair done. Chu asked Drew why she was going to the wake, given her role in the cyber bullying. Drew's response, according to Chu: "It's not like I pulled the trigger."

On cross examination, defense attorney H. Dean Steward quizzed Chu on why she didn't report the two conversations to the police or FBI after Megan's suicide. Chu didn't become a witness in the case until the FBI phoned her up for the first time last Thursday, even though she has a relative in the Bureau.

Chu answered that she thought her boss at the salon had been in touch with the FBI and prosecutors. "I understood that she was taking care of it."†

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