Judge Tentatively Refuses to Dismiss Internet Suicide Case

Last week a federal judge tentatively rejected two motions to dismiss charges against a mother in a MySpace hoax that allegedly led to the suicide of a 13-year-old girl.

The mother, 49, helped set up a MySpace account with her daughter and another teen, posing as a 16-year-old boy. She allegedly flirted with the girl under the boy’s identity and later sent her cruel messages saying the world would be better off without her. Shortly thereafter, the girl hanged herself.

Prosecutors charged the mother with one count of conspiracy and three violations of the anti-hacking Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The mother pleaded not guilty to the charges. This is the first time the statute has been used in connection with a Web site’s terms of service prohibiting misrepresentation by people setting up new accounts.

The defense attorney said the indictment should be dismissed because the prosecutors were overstepping their power by bending the statute and because the charges were too vague.

During a hearing, the judge said that he intends to take more time to consider a third motion to dismiss the case against the mother.

Some experts have criticized the prosecutors for using the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, saying it sets a dangerous precedent that could mean anyone who violated a Web site’s terms of service could potentially be charged with a felony.

The judge is expected to make a decision on whether the charges will be dropped this week. He set an October 7 trial date.

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