After the 2006 suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier, the victim of an Internet hoax, Missouri is taking cyberbullying very seriously.
Elizabeth Thrasher now has the dubious honor of being the first person charged with the felony of cyberbullying under a new Missouri state law.
According to a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Tuesday, Thrasher is accused of posting a photo of a teenage girl, along with personal information about her, in the "Casual Encounters" section of Craigslist.
Prosecutors in the case said that the 40-year-old Thrasher posted the girl's picture, e-mail address, and cell phone number on the site, which is geared toward people interested in quick sexual encounters, reported the Post-Dispatch. The 17-year-old girl, who has not been named, reportedly received e-mails, text messages, and cell phone calls from strange men, forcing her to call the police.
The incident isn't random--the alleged victim is the daughter of Thrasher's ex-husband's girlfriend, noted the Post-Dispatch. And according to St. Charles County Prosecutor Jack Banas, Thrasher and the teen's mother had been arguing, prompting the girl to send a MySpace message to Thrasher telling her to grow up. The situation then escalated when Thrasher created a listing for the teen on the Craigslist adult site.
The Post-Dispatch quoted authorities who said the case is the first felony charge filed in St. Charles County under the new state law. Misdemeanor charges have been filed in other local cases.
But Thrasher's attorney, Michael Kielty, said he's not sure prosecutors can meet the elements of the charge, claiming that the statue is poorly written, according to the Post-Dispatch. "To charge a woman, a mother, with a felony for what is tantamount to a practical joke, that's awfully rash," he said. "That's taking it to the extreme."
The St. Charles County sheriff's office and attorney Kielty were not available for comment to CNET News.
The new cyberbullying law was passed as a response to Meier's suicide. Lori Drew, a neighbor of Meier, had been charged with using her MySpace account to bully the 13-year-old. Drew went so far as to manufacture a fake online boyfriend who eventually broke up with Meier, telling her in the final message that "the world would be a better place without you."
In July, a judge dismissed misdemeanor charges against Drew, with her lawyers arguing that the law at that time was vague.