In papers filed in court this week, a prosecutor in St. Charles County alleges that 40-year-old Elizabeth Thrasher posted photos of the teen, as well as her email address, cell phone number and place of employment, on Craigslist's casual encounters section. The listing also included language "that could be construed as sexual in nature," according to court papers posted by The Smoking Gun. Thrasher's ex-husband is currently dating the mother of the teenage victim.
Missouri outlawed "cyberbullying" last year in response to the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier. The new law makes it illegal to knowingly cause emotional distress to someone via the Web, text message or other electronic forms of communication. In the past, Missouri's harassment law applied to telephone messages and some written communications, but appeared to exclude online comments.
The law makes it a felony for someone over 21 to harass someone under 18.
Missouri officials have brought several misdemeanor cases under the new law, but the case against Thrasher marks the first time that someone has been charged with felony cyberbullying. The charges could land Thrasher in prison for up to four years.
Missouri revised its harassment statute to include bullying via the Web after a victim of an Internet hoax, 13-year-old Megan Meier, killed herself.
In that situation, an adult woman, Lori Drew, allegedly helped hatch a plan to communicate with Megan by creating a fake profile of a boy, "Josh," who sent messages to her. The messages were initially flirtatious, but eventually turned hurtful. Megan hanged herself after receiving a message from Josh that the world would be a better place without her. Drew herself did not send the messages or create the account.
Law enforcement authorities in Missouri investigated Drew at the time, but concluded that no state laws had been broken. Federal prosecutors later persuaded a jury that Drew had violated a computer fraud law, but a judge later threw out the conviction.