LOS ANGELES -- In a stunning move, a federal judge has tentatively decided to reverse a jury's verdicts and acquit a Missouri woman who had been convicted of computer fraud charges stemming from an Internet hoax that prompted a teenage girl to commit suicide.
Lori Drew was convicted in November of three misdemeanor counts of illegally accessing a protected computer.
She was expected to be sentenced today in a widely publicized "cyber bullying" case that resulted in the suicide of a 13-year-old girl.
The charges stemmed from the death of 13-year-old Megan Meier, who committed suicide after being "dumped" on MySpace by a fictitious boy Drew helped create.
U.S. District Judge George H. Wu says his decision is tentative, and will not become final until he issues a written ruling.
Drew was charged after the 2006 suicide of Meier, a friend of the woman's daughter, who lived four doors down the street from the Meiers in Dardenne Prairie, Mo.
The girl, who was being treated for depression, hanged herself at home after reading a MySpace posting from " Josh Evans," a fake persona invented by Drew and two unindicted co-conspirators.
The message told the girl the world would be "better off without her", according to prosecutors.
Members of the Meier family may speak before the court during the sentencing, which is scheduled to take place in downtown Los Angeles.
Prosecutors want Drew to serve three years in federal prison, although probation officers have recommended she receive probation and pay a $5,000 fine.
Drew's attorney says she should not go to jail or pay a fine because she has already suffered financially as a result of the case.
Jurors rejected felony charges that she used a computer to intentionally inflict emotional harm to the girl.
The panel also deadlocked on a felony count of conspiracy, and prosecutors decided not to retry her on that count.
Drew's attorney said at trial that Drew never knew the teen had a history of depression. But Megan's mother -- Tina Meier -- testified that she had discussed her daughter's depression with Drew before the suicide. Drew did not testify.
Although the case took place in Missouri, the trial was set in Los Angeles because MySpace is based in Beverly Hills.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times