COMMENTS: Criminalizing Teenage Heartlessness

When a 16-year-old boy writes a Dear Jane e-mail to a 13-year-old girl--"The world would be a better place without you"--the sentiment is undeniably heartless, but can it be called criminal? Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles certainly think so, even though the teenage heartbreak occurred in suburban St Louis. They brought a felony indictment against the alleged author of the cruel note because it was sent on, the social networking site whose headquarters is in their city. The charge is "using a computer to inflict emotional distress," ABC's Deborah Roberts (no link) told us. CBS' Sandra Hughes characterized it as creating a "fictitious" account and using it "to harass, humiliate and embarrass." CBS' Hughes explained that Josh Evans, the 16-year-old boy, was allegedly a pseudonym for Lori Drew, the 49-year-old mother of the girl's classmate. Megan Meier, the girl who received the hoax rejection letter, hanged herself. Drew is the one at risk of incarceration. "It was the kind of justice that Tina Meier…has been praying for," stated ABC's Roberts about Megan's mother.

Teenage distress and humiliation are indeed horrible…and impersonating the heartless boyfriend of one's daughter's classmate certainly sounds perverse--but there seem no grounds for making a federal case out of it.


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