The trial of a Missouri woman accused of online fraud in connection with the suicide of a teenager has begun in a federal court in Los Angeles, reports the New York Times, in a case with important implications for internet law. Federal prosecutors on Nov. 19 depicted a woman accused of creating a phony account on MySpace to taunt a 13-year-old girl as cravenly preying on the "vulnerable" and "boy-crazy" teenager, who had a history of depression and suicidal thoughts. The girl, Megan Meier, committed suicide, prosecutors said, after receiving nasty messages that she believed had come from a teenage boy but had actually been written by the accused woman, Lori Drew. In a highly unusual use of computer-fraud statutes, Drew is being charged with conspiracy and three counts of accessing a computer without authorization via interstate commerce to obtain information to inflict emotional distress. Each count could lead to a maximum of five years in prison. Drew found herself face to face with Megan’s parents and other residents of her town near St. Louis in a courtroom in downtown Los Angeles, where the U.S. attorney has claimed jurisdiction because MySpace servers and corporate headquarters are in the county. Because Missouri did not have a cyber-bullying law in place at the time of the alleged actions, prosecutors decided to wield a federal statute that is generally used to prosecute fraud that occurs across state lines. Some critics have said the use of these statutes in the case is overreaching…

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