Here's 40-year old Missouri mother Elizabeth Thrasher, charged with felony cyberbullying yesterday for putting photos of a 17 year old girl and suggestive messages about her on the "Casual Encounters" portion of Craigslist. Who was this girl to Ms. Thrasher and why would she do this? The girl is the daughter of the girlfriend of Thrasher's ex-husband. Nothing like going after the kids of your "love rival" as an adult female more than twice the girl's age.
The AOL news poll on this matter asks, "Should cyberbullying be a felony?" The choices are "Yes" and "No, it's 'free speech'". Currently, about 100,000 respondents are running 93% "yes" and 7% "No." A slightly larger percentage, 13%, is willing to admit they've posted "mean comments" online.
Mean comments and inviting perverts on Craigslist to harass a 17 year old girl are two very different things.
The Missouri law that was recently enacted was a reaction to horrible Lori Drew, another adult female targeting a teen through MySpace harassment that caused the death of young Megan Meier. Megan's mother Tina said, "This is not a joke. There have been too many people who have taken their own lives, too many people and their families that have been hurt by this."
Teens are extremely sensitive, and they are still children. The Missouri law says that cyberbullying where an adult targets another adult is a misdemeanor, while adults targeting minors will be charged with a felony. The crime is punishable by up to 4 years in state prison, or a year in county jail, and a $5,000 fine. Standard procedure for these types of felonies is to suspend the sentence, with probation and the sentence to be activated if probation is violated (community service and payment of fine). The accused woman has been ordered to not have a computer or internet access during this period, and she's been released on a $10,000 bond. Her "nice" attorney compared her actions to writing "For a good time call Jane Doe" and a phone number on a bathroom wall. Cutting-and-pasting a girl's picture onto Craig's List and posting that amount of personal information (email, cell phone) takes a lot more effort than that, and has a lot more exposure than a women's bathroom stall.
According to the news reports, this is the first actual prosecution under the new Missouri law. The actions of this woman's attorney remind me of the anti-death penalty advocates who basically support no penalties for any type of criminal behavior. There's a reason that images of Justice feature a blindfold and scales. Apparently, the girl's mother and this Thrasher woman were "going at it" on MySpace. Thrasher's actions go far beyond online insults and taunts. It's really about material damage and intent to harm. The young girl wasn't posting sex ads for herself on Craigs List. She had the misfortune of being the daughter of a woman who was dating Thrasher's ex.
The people who do these types of things are always pathetic losers. In this case, Ms. Thrasher apparently has two minor children that live at home with her. It's obvious she was only thinking of her sick need for harassment and revenge when she undertook her actions. But - what else is new? This stuff is par for the course, and more business for attorneys and other exploiters.