A Missouri woman has become the first person to be charged with felony cyberbullying in that state after she allegedly posted photos and personal information of a teenage girl to the Casual Encounters section of Craigslist.
Prosecutors said Elizabeth A. Thrasher, 40, posted the 17-year-old's picture, cell phone number, email address, and employer to the Craigslist section, which is frequented by adults looking for anonymous, no-strings-attached sex. The girl received lewd emails and calls in response, including pornographic pictures from men she didn't know.
The incident began after Thrasher had an extended argument with the girl's mother, according to authorities. Eventually, the girl sent Thrasher a message over MySpace. Thrasher responded by posting the racy ad on Craigslist and making it appear as if it came from the girl.
Thrasher was charged under a law the Missouri legislature passed in response to an unrelated cyberbullying incident that ended with the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier. In that case, Lori Drew and several accomplices created a fake MySpace account belonging to a boy named Josh and used it to send Meier messages that were friendly at first.
Eventually, they sent a message that had the good-looking boy tell Meier the world would be a better place without her. Shortly afterward, the girl hanged herself in her bedroom closet. Drew was later convicted of several misdemeanors in federal court, but the judge overseeing the case has overturned the verdict and said he will acquit her.
At the time, Missouri had no statute that outlawed the behavior. Under a new cyberbullying law that went into effect last year, suspects can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony. Thrasher, who was free on $10,000 bond, faces a maximum four years in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted.
An attorney representing Thrasher told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch the Craigslist posting was a practical joke. The Associated Press has additional details here. ®