ST. LOUIS - A 21-year-old woman accused of sending a vulgar text message to a 17-year-old girl is one of the first cases brought under a law against cyberbullying spurred by the suicide of a teenage girl following cruel messages on the Internet.
The 2006 death of Megan Meier, 13, prompted Missouri lawmakers to update a state harassment law this year so that it now covers bullying and stalking done through electronic media, such as e-mails or text messages.
A handful of cases related to electronic communication have been filed statewide since the law took effect Aug. 28. Prosecutors do not track harassment cases based on the type of communication used, so they could not provide an exact count in recent days of how many people have been charged because of the new provisions.
In one of the new cases, Nicole Williams is accused of using electronic communications to harass a teenager in a dispute over a boy. Williams is scheduled for arraignment Jan. 8 on one count of harassment. She allegedly sent the text message to a 17-year-old she had not previously met because she heard the girl had a physical encounter with her boyfriend. The two had just been talking, police said.
The 17-year-old girl received voice messages with lewd comments, including some that threatened rape. Williams told police others sent those messages from her phone, according to a probable-cause statement.
The case was filed in November and is the first involving text messages in St. Charles County, the county where Meier resided, since the new law went into effect.
Defense attorney Michael Kielty, who represents Williams, criticized the revised law on electronic harassment. He called the Meier case tragic, but said lawmakers had engaged in a knee-jerk reaction to try to address the high-profile case.
In a landmark cyberbullying trial, Lori Drew, 49, of O'Fallon, Mo., was convicted in Los Angeles on misdemeanor federal charges of accessing computers without authorization last month.