Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Who's in Your Top 86?

I'm a big fan of Law & Order and generally mouth a little "Get 'em Jack" every time Sam Waterston's character -- grizzled, incomprehensible DA Jack McCoy -- pulls some clever legal tactic out of his ass to get a conviction.

This fact, in addition to providing a glimpse into the tragic nature of my daily existence, would probably lead you to assume that I'm one of those people who believes in justice-at-all-costs -- doing whatever is necessary to make the guilty pay.

Not exactly.

Case in point: Today's L.A. Times details a plan by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles to file charges against a Missouri woman who allegedly posed as a teenage boy on MySpace, then taunted a 13-year-old girl until the kid hung herself. Both state and federal attorneys haven't yet been able to touch Lori Drew -- who, as it turns out, lives only a few doors down from the victim. The reason of course is because technically she didn't violate any laws; it isn't a crime to pretend to be someone non-existent online, befriend a person, then reject him or her (which in this case caused the unfortunate "mark" to go into an admittedly nasty downward spiral).

Let me rephrase that -- it isn't a crime yet.

Displaying the sort of knee-jerk imprudence that's become de rigeur from today's gladhanding lawmakers -- a reaction which emphatically belies the fact that there are still a hell of a lot of real problems across this country in need of attention -- Missouri legislators are now pushing to close the loophole that's allowed the state's apparent epidemic of online bullying to continue unabated. They want to make it illegal for an adult to "harass a child online" -- because once again, this sort of thing happens all the time and it's about time someone did something about it.

The real tragedy in all of this, at least insofar as it pertains to the ability of the lawmakers in question to shamelessly milk such grandstanding for all it's worth come election time, is that the name of the victim in the Missouri case is Megan Meier -- and, unfortunately, there's already a "Meghan's Law."

At one time, we prided ourselves on being a nation of "laws, not men." Possibly the most obvious proof that we've become willing to bend this once-hallowed tenet of the rule of law is that our government now sees nothing wrong with enacting legislation as a direct, politically expedient response to a single high-profile crime, then slapping the name of the victim of that particular crime on said law -- just to drive the point home.

But while Missouri's working on cracking down on future Lori Drews, let's not forget the feds in L.A. who think they've come up with a novel way to nail the one still walking around free after supposedly taunting a kid to death.

It's the kind of clever legal ploy that would put a gleam in Jack McCoy's eye really.

The want to charge Lori Drew not with killing Megan Meier -- but with defrauding MySpace.

How exactly?

By creating a phony account, using a fake name.

I'll give you a minute to stop laughing.

According to the Times, a federal grand jury has already served MySpace with a subpoena, demanding that the site turn over any information on the fake profile used to harass Meier. The mother of the victim meanwhile says exactly what you'd expect her to say -- expressing the popular sentiment that's given life to such a farcical tactic: She doesn't care what Drew is nailed for, as long as she's nailed for something.

Although points for creativity are certainly in order, experts agree that there's a pretty good chance this case, if brought to court, will quickly be thrown out of court.

Still, the potential legal precedent being set for the sake of making one admittedly rotten woman pay for her cruelty is something that should be neither overlooked nor underestimated.

Those who immediately bring up First Amendment rights obviously have a strong argument.

But beyond that, consider the three-ring circus of litigation that could roll into MySpace's little cyber-town should prosecutors succeed in getting this taken seriously in a courtroom. The potential consequences are as ridiculous as they are far-reaching.

A quick glance at just my own MySpace profile page should give you some idea. Among my "friends" are Sheriff Bart, Dr. Leo Spaceman, Pootie Tang, General Zod and Frank the giant rabbit from Donnie Darko. Even Charles Bukowski has his own profile -- and he's dead for Christ's sake. Now before you begin dismissing these kinds of profiles as being obvious jokes and bearing little resemblance to the built-to-terrorize site allegedly concocted by Lori Drew, remember that they're all equal in the eyes of the law.

That's what a precedent is, and common sense often takes a back seat to it -- particularly when it's wielded by a canny lawyer.

No one's saying that Lori Drew, if guilty of what she's being accused of, isn't a God-awful human being -- one deserving of a place in a special little circle of Kafka hell.

But it boils down to this: You cannot legislate every kind of bad behavior.

When you try to, it's usually the good people who suffer.


BV said...

This shit was on Dr. Phil last night. Don't even ask why I stopped and watched.

Why the fuck are CHILDREN on the internet unattended? It's really not a good place to leave your kid unattended.

Why the fuck is a 13 year old on myspace?

You should be responsible for what happens to your children in your home when they are on the internet. Why do they have computers in their rooms and why are you not watching them or keystroking their every move?

People shouldn't even be able to have a 13 year old profile on myspace.

I can't even argue coherently right now it pisses me off so badly.

VOTAR said...

It's a good thing my cat Newk is a real cat named Newk and not a make-believe cat named Newk, or someone might think his MySpace page is fake.

Bunny Hopper said...

Is that a 1986 reference in the title?

Chez said...

No -- it's an 86 as in 86'd.

As in cut off permanently.

Hey, they can't all be winners.

Nancy said...

DAMN, you're smart. I'd been pondering this atrocious situation and trying to figure out just WHAT was bothering me about it, and you hit it right on the head: "But it boils down to this: You cannot legislate every kind of bad behavior." Of course you can't. And that is what was bugging me in this unfolding story, and in so many other stories.

heidi said...

Charles Bukowski isn't dead, he's just gone to be with Elvis...

Seriously, though, this is terrible. I would think that any adult contacting a child online and pretending to be someone else should constitute some sort of crime. If that guy on 48 Hours can set up sting operations for people looking to have sex with a minor, why not try and catch anyone attempting to harrass a child online in any way? Obviously, as the daily wank report will tell you, some people consider any sort of negativity over the internet to be harrassment, but something that causes a child to committ suicide?

I wonder if the neighborhood has started treating the perpetrator as a child predator and has started egging and spraypainting her house yet?

Mark said...

There's more than one way to skin a cat, trust me i've used them all. Seems like they could go about punishing this waste of space cunt fart in more sensible ways. How about contributing to the deliquency of a minor since suicide is illegal. If that doesn't make a strong enough case they could go with harasment, or molestation...hell why not good old fashioned child abuse. I'm sure that in some way it could be considered stalking. Defrauding myspace is kind of silly when you take into account that most of the people on myspace are minors. Oh yeah...its also silly cause its MYSPACE!!

Mark said...

They could make "Megan's Law two Cybernet Boog-a-lew!"

vertigo25 said...

I'll play Devil's Advocate for a moment...

It's not the screen names that the feds are going after. It's the fact that all of the information she gave was false. remember, that when you register with MySpace, you give both a username and a *real* name.

Consider that when you register, they ask if you agree to the terms and conditions. Now, I for one, think the whole "I agree to the Terms and Conditions" check box does not constitute a legal contract, but there are federal judges who disagree with me.

So, if it *is* (for the sake of argument) a legal contract, she defrauded the company by entering in to an agreement under a false alias.

What I have not understood about this case from the beginning is why Drew isn't being prosecuted under the 2005 revisions of the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act:

"Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

[non Devil's Advocate, here: yes I think that entire law was written far to ambiguously and is kind of a stain on our legislation... but that's not really the point]

Anonymous said...

Sheriff Bart says:

HOLY FUCK! I'm going to jail!

screamofwheat said...

chez. have you heard that katrina victims are suing the government for three QUADRILLION dollars? please make a post about this next. myspace suicide is fascinating but THREE QUADRILLION DOLLARS!!

foolery said...

Had the child not chosen to commit suicide -- it was a CHOICE, remember, and please don't lob any tomatoes at me; I'm horrified by the girl's death -- what would Drew's crime have been, exactly? Isn't that where this all starts?

Better go quietly delete a couple of possibly prosecutable accounts now...

westend girl said...

I saw an interview with the mom and dad of Megan Meier, they said that they had the password to the myspace account and they were the ones who gave her permission in regards to when she could use it and when she could not. The mom would log Megan in on myspace and I believe the computer was in the kitchen or some other shared space.

That's pretty damn awesome considering that most parents these days have no idea what the hell their child is up to on the 'net.

Manny said...

Come on, Chez. Who DOESN'T have a a fake profile that they use to taunt 13 year old girls into committing suicide? That's just good old fashion American fun, right there. Next you're gonna tell me that they're going to outlaw dragging hookers from my bumper down the 5 freeway at 4am.

Harris said...

This is one of those cases when what we really need is comic book justice. This situation doesn't call for more laws, it calls for a savage beating administered by Moon Knight.

Danny Vice said...

The Weekly Vice Offers This Open Letter To St. Charles County Prosecutor Jack Banas.

Jan 9, 2008 (The Weekly Vice )

Dear Jack Banas,

The nation has been horrified as an adult mother, her daughter and an employee of the adult stalked, harassed and bullied a 13 year old minor child continually until that minor child committed suicide.

When you reviewed the case, the nation watched as you willfully ignored a sworn statement by Lori Drew stipulating her involvement in this process. We watched when you willfully adopted Lori Drew's new account of what happened - while failing to address Lori Drew's previous, sworn statements. We are now watching as you willfully and neglectfully ignore the legal implications that go along with falsifying a police report.

Jack Banas, you have claimed repeatedly that Lori Drew violated no state law or statute. You have gone on the record with these statements multiple times. What you have not done is explain why some citizens of your county are required to follow the laws of the land while others are not. Why some citizens are prosecuted for filing false reports with Missouri authorities, while others seemingly are not required to be accountable for such acts.

On November 11th, 2006, the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department responded to a complaint that Lori Drew wished to file. The authorities in your county arrived and took Lori Drew's detailed statement.

The officer carefully accounted word for word Lori Drew's statements using quotes to accurately record her words, and in this statement Lori Drew stipulated to several key facts that she now disputes. Among those key statements, Lori Drew stipulated the following:

"Drew stated she, her daughter and Ashley all typed, read and monitored the communication between the fake male profile and Megan. Drew went on to say, the communication became "sexual for a thirteen year old. Drew stated she continued the fake male profile despite this development."

This statement is the exact text as stipulated by Lori Drew in the Incident Report she willfully filed. In this Incident report, Lori Drew detailed in clear language her active involvement in the shameful activities that cascaded into tragedy for Megan Meier.

Jack Banas, Lori Drew's current statements dramatically and compellingly disagrees with the statements she rendered as true testimony in the November 11th report. She now has stated through her attorney Jim Briscoe, the following:

“Everything, as far as Mrs. Drew knew, was that all the communication was nice and polite and there was no harassing going on,” Briscoe said. “She did not create the MySpace account. She did not instruct anybody to create the MySpace account. She never made any communications through the MySpace account.”

Lori Drew has also given public statements, denying that the report she filed on November 11th is accurate. In doing so, she herself calls into question the accuracy of the statement she submitted to St. Charles Deputies in her November 11th complaint.

You Cannot Have It Both Ways:

Jack Banas, Missouri Law demands that when a citizen files an Incident Report in the State Of Missouri, the citizen has an obligation to tell the truth.

There are many instances where Missouri residents have been charged and convicted for filing false police and incident reports. St. Charles County has similar convictions on the books for these offenses.

Jack Banas, the citizens of Missouri would like to know why some citizens of your county are expected to abide by the law and play by the rules, while others are allowed to thumb their nose at these requirements.

Jack Banas, the citizens of Missouri would like to know why an elected county prosecutor personally reviewed this case and willfully ignored the obvious reversal Lori Drew has made in her statements between the November 11th incident report and her statements now.

Jack Banas, since you have stated that Lori Drew did not break the law, we have no other choice but to assume that filing a false statement and/or false police/incident report with St. Charles County authorities is acceptable under the laws of your county.

Jack Banas, you can no longer have it both ways. Either Lori Drew (and the St. Charles County Prosecutor's office) has been untruthful with the citizens of Missouri on November 11th, 2008, or you are being untruthful with us now.

Jack Banas, California prosecutors should not feel the burden of enforcing laws that you and your office refuse to enforce equally among all Missouri citizens. Beverly Hills taxpayers should not carry the burden of justice that Missouri taxpayers are already paying for.

Tax paying Missourians demand that you enforce the laws you have been sworn to uphold. If you are not willing to equally and fairly uphold your duties as the St. Charles County Prosecutor, then we respectfully request that you resign your office and allow a candidate to step forth who will follow through on his/her oath to uphold the laws of the great state of Missouri.

We await your reply with voting card in hand.

Danny Vice
The Weekly Vice

You can do something!
Contact Jack Banas here:

Chez said...

I'll get right on that.