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Mom In MySpace Hoax May Land In Prison

A defense attorney says prosecutors are the real bullies for seeking a stiff sentence against a Missouri mother once accused of scheming over the Internet to humiliate 13-year-old neighbor Megan Meier who later committed suicide.

Lawyer Dean Steward represents Lori Drew, who is scheduled to be sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court after being convicted in November of three misdemeanor counts of accessing computers without authorization.

Drew was found not guilty of the felony charge of intentionally causing emotional harm while accessing computers without authorization. The jury deadlocked on a felony conspiracy charge.

Steward said in recent court documents that prosecutors were trying to save face after they didn't get the verdict they sought.

"The government's case is all about making Lori Drew a public symbol of cyberbullying," Steward said. "The government has created a fiction that Lori Drew somehow caused (Megan's) death, and it wants a long prison sentence to make its fiction seem real."

The government has asked U.S. District Judge George Wu to send Drew to prison for three years for violating the terms of service of the MySpace social networking site and fining Drew as much as $300,000.

Steward wants the judge to dismiss the charges. Probation officials have recommended a year of probation.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Drew violated MySpace rules by helping set up a phony profile for a boy named "Josh Evans" with her then-13-year-old daughter and a business assistant.

Prosecutors believe Drew and her daughter created the profile and sent flirtatious messages to Megan Meier in the boy's name to find out if Megan was spreading rumors about Drew's daughter.

The fake boy then dumped Megan in a message saying the world would be better without her. She hanged herself a short time later in October 2006.

Prosecutors argued that Drew sought to humiliate Megan, who she knew suffered from depression and was suicidal. They also said Drew tried to conceal the scheme after Megan died and avoided taking responsibility.

"A probationary sentence might embolden others to use the Internet to torment and exploit children," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Krause said in court documents.

Drew was not directly charged with causing Megan's death. Instead, prosecutors indicted her under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which in the past has been used in hacking and trademark theft cases.

The trial was held in Los Angeles because the servers of the social networking site are in the area.