Court tosses part of Missouri cyberbully law

May 30, 2012 at 4:01 PM
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., May 30 (UPI) -- The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled part of a law passed after a notorious case of cyberbullying ended in a teen's suicide is too broad and vague.

In its ruling Tuesday, the court struck down a section that allows prosecution of someone who "knowingly makes repeated unwanted communication to another person," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The court upheld the rest of the law.

The law was passed in 2008, a year after Megan Meier, 13, of Dardenne Prairie took her own life. An adult neighbor, Lori Drew, had posed as a 16-year-old boy on MySpace, first befriending Megan and then turning on her. Drew was acquitted of criminal charges.

Lawyers for Danny Vaughan, a Missouri man accused under the law of harassing his ex-wife, challenged the "unwanted communications" section and another section barring conduct designed "to frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to another person." The court upheld the second section.

The court said the "unwanted communications" language could be used against legitimate protesters, people seeking donations and even teachers who call on students who have said they do not want to be recognized in class.

"Although the statute purports to criminalize 'harassment,' [this] subdivision, unlike the other subdivisions, does not require the conduct to actually harass in any sense of the word," Judge William Ray Price Jr. wrote.

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