"It is unclear here but if you take words like abuse, if you take words like harass, if you take words like threats, and then you look at what was done to this little girl, I think the court is going to find that the First Amendment doesn’t protect that kind of conduct."

 

Kendall Coffey

KENDALL COFFEY

 

NEWS INTERVIEWS

MYSPACE SUICIDE
The Megan Meier case

HLN Prime News with Erica Hill

Interview with Kendall Coffey

1/9/08

ERICA HILL: A story we have been covering for some time and an important update on an on-line hoax that went horribly wrong – so wrong it led to the suicide of a 13-year old girl. But there were never any charges brought against the accused perpetrators. Now things may change.

RICHELLE CAREY is joining us now with the latest on this discussion which is a wake-up for on-line criminals and in fact anybody who is using the internet  

RICHELLE CAREY: That’s the truth, Erica. This is a story which has made people mad – really mad. Let me take you back for just a second. Thirteen-year old Megan Meier died last year. She was absolutely distraught after she was rejected by a 16-year old boy she met through her MySpace website. Here’s where the story becomes unbelievable. The boy, turns out, was the mother of Megan’s former friend using a false on-line identity. The Missouri prosecutors declined to file charges against the woman because basically they felt there was nothing they could charge her with but now a Los Angeles grand jury is reportedly investigating the on-line hoax that led to Megan’s suicide. The L.A. Times reports the grand jury has already issued subpoenas and this is happening in Los Angeles because that is where MySpace is based.  

ERICA HILL: Okay, so then who specifically are they going after at this point? First I should say. 

RICHELLE CAREY: First they issued the subpoenas, according to the Times, to MySpace. They’ve been subpoenaed. They are going after the mother based on the idea of fraud. They are saying she defrauded MySpace because she set up a false account. That’s where they are starting right now according to the Times. 

ERICA HILL: Okay. What makes the feds think they can actually succeed here when the state has tried very, very hard.  

RICHELLE CAREY: The governor has set up a task force to see what they could do. We are going to put that question to our favorite legal mind former U.S. attorney, Kendall Coffey. 

KENDALL COFFEY: It was enacted in 2006, a new federal law that makes anonymous cyber-abuse a crime potentially prosecutable for two years hasn’t been tested by the courts yet but if you ever wanted to see a case where that kind of law ought to apply this might be the case. It’s come up before in the context, for example, of a very similar law that dealt with anonymous phone calls that were used to harass, to intimidate, to threaten. Those laws were largely validated. Again, it is unclear here but if you take words like abuse, if you take words like harass, if you take words like threats, and then you look at what was done to this little girl, I think the court is going to find that the First Amendment doesn’t protect that kind of conduct.  

ERICA HILL: The mother that set up this account, she is really having a tough time in her neighborhood. She’s basically been ostracized and even gotten death threats.