Why isn't Lori Drew being charged as a sexual predator?
November 20, 2008 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Why isn't Lori Drew being charged for something related to having sexual conversations with a minor?

Okay, so yesterday was the first day of the Megan Meier/Lori Drew trial. Lori Drew is being charged with conspiracy and "accessing computers without authorization."

There's something that's been bugging me since this story first surfaced. It was mentioned in the police report that the conversations "Josh Evans" had with Megan were "sexual for a thirteen year old" and Megan expressed interest in wanting to meet "Josh," so why isn't Drew being charged for something relating to that? Why is this different from those Dateline sexual predator traps?
posted by giraffe to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Because she didn't actually want to have sex with Megan? The guys on Predator really intend to have sex with the minor with whom they think they are chatting. Lori Drew's motive was entirely different. Evil, but different.
posted by desjardins at 7:47 AM on November 20, 2008

You only charge people with specific things you can prove they did that broke specific laws. If they didn't, it's because they can't.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:54 AM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Usually sex sting operations are on shaky grounds and many "To Catch a Predator" type stings are thrown out due to insufficient evidence. Notice how they always to bring a six-pack or something else a minor should not be doing? This is because they usually get them under "Unlawful Transaction with a Minor" which is a rather broad but doesn't specifically state sex, but rather doing things with a minor that the minor shouldn't be doing. This is hard to prosecute (feel free to correct me). Furthermore, this is a misdemeanor. Talking sexual with minors is not a crime within itself, or at least hard to prosecute.

Lori Drew is interesting because she didn't really do anything illegal, per se. So if you're prosecuting this and you're looking at all the avenues in which to go after her, instead of throwing a bunch of charges that have a high likelihood of failing, you go for the one that has a potential for punishment and gun for that. I think that the route they're going really underscores how little basis they have for prosecuting her in a legal sense. There is no law against being an asshole, at least yet.
posted by geoff. at 8:00 AM on November 20, 2008

I think Geoff is right; I don't know of any law that criminalizes sexual conversations with a minor. Off the cuff, it sounds like an unreasonable 1st amendment restriction.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:30 AM on November 20, 2008

Because we have a Bill of Rights and our society is still relatively sane, so having a conversation is not a crime unless it's a threat of violence or "shouting 'fire!' in a crowded theatre?"

If we are going to put people in jail for "sexual conversations," we may as well just burn them as witches and get it over with. As geoff mentioned, that "dateline" crap is made by mouth-breathing panderers and watched by idiots, and has little to nothing to do with how our justice system should or does operate.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:31 AM on November 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

IANAL, but I would think that at some point, depending on the content, it could be a 1st amendment violation. But I think geoff has it pinned. They said it was "explicit for a 13 year old", but that may not be pornographic or delve firmly enough into corruption of a minor territory that they choose to prosecute on that. Plus the babysitter (who IIRC was 17?) did a lot of the typing, so Drew couldn't be prosecuted for that.

Actually the more I remember, a handful of people were doing the typing, so while Lori may have "masterminded" the whole plot, it would be hard to prove what she typed, when she typed it, etc.

They're getting her with what they can. And it is good. Because she really, really deserves it IMHO.
posted by arniec at 8:35 AM on November 20, 2008

Best answer: 18 USC section 2251(a) -- sexual exploitation of children

(a) Any person who employs, uses, persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any minor to engage in, or who has a minor assist any other person to engage in, or who transports any minor in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory or Possession of the United States, with the intent that such minor engage in, any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct or for the purpose of transmitting a live visual depiction of such conduct, shall be punished as provided under subsection (e), if such person knows or has reason to know that such visual depiction will be transported or transmitted using any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce or in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or mailed, if that visual depiction was produced or transmitted using materials that have been mailed, shipped, or transported in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer, or if such visual depiction has actually been transported or transmitted using any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce or in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or mailed.

I'm guessing she didn't have the intent element. Federal sexual exploitation of children laws are really focused toward child porn and not really toward actually having sex with children.

I don't think an obscenity charge would work either. I'm not sure that someone's statements would constitute pornography under this next section, or that the words she actually used rises to pornography.

18 USC section 1470 -- transfer of obscene material to children

Whoever, using the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly transfers obscene matter to another individual who has not attained the age of 16 years, knowing that such other individual has not attained the age of 16 years, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 9:11 AM on November 20, 2008

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks for all the helpful answers!

For anyone who thinks I believe Lori Drew should be charged for X, Y or Z (or that I don't believe in the first amendment? What?), I was more asking this question because it seems pretty obvious that the prosecution was really reaching to find charges (conspiring to commit a crime in the future -- what crime, exactly?), so why not this one?

I'm outraged by this woman's behavior, as I'm sure most sensible human beings are, but the idea of a criminal trial really does take this to a scary "legality of certain internet use" place. Corrupting a minor or having a sexually explicit conversation with a minor (a minor who expresses interest in meeting in person) seem way more illegal to me than what amounts to intention to humiliate and insult a minor. And that doesn't really take it to a "future laws for internet use" situation, which I think the judge was kind of nervous about.

Here's hoping Lori Drew gets a fair trial, and that her two kids get to change their names.
posted by giraffe at 10:15 AM on November 20, 2008

"Corruption" of a minor seems like a very, very slippery slope and something that would be nearly impossible to criminalize, since it's exceedingly difficult to come up with some sort of applicable standard of conduct. Without a standard of conduct, you can't give people fair warning that what they may be doing is illegal, and you violate the due process clause.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:30 PM on November 20, 2008

Just to add some perspective, Socrates was sentenced to death for corrupting the youth of Athens. Laws that vague are not desirable.
posted by voltairemodern at 3:59 PM on November 21, 2008

(Not that I think the OP wanted that sort of law, just adding to craven_morhead's comment.)
posted by voltairemodern at 4:00 PM on November 21, 2008

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