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Wednesday, April 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Police Press Cyber-Bullying Charges

ST. CHARLES, Mo. (CN) - A 21-year-old woman is one of the first to be charged under the state's new cyber-bullying law, charged with misdemeanor harassment. Police say Nicole A. Williams, jealous over a boy, sent harassing text messages and let friends use her cell phone to send threatening voice mails to a 16-year-old girl.

One of the voice mails allegedly threatened rape, and eggs and thumbtacks were thrown at the girl's car, police say.

Williams is one of seven people who have been charged under the cyber-bullying law since it went into affect on Aug. 28. It is the first case involving text messages filed in St. Charles County.

The cyber-bullying law was passed in response to the MySpace suicide case in St. Charles County, in which 13-year-old Megan Meier hanged herself after receiving hurtful messages from someone she thought was a boy. The boy turned out to be fictitious, a persona created by neighbor Lori Drew to find out what Meier was saying about her daughter. Drew recently was found guilty by a Los Angeles jury of three misdemeanor counts of accessing a computer without authorization for her role in the incident.

Williams' attorney Michael Kielty said the law is vague and was passed hastily after the Meier suicide. "It's a knee-jerk reaction to a high-profile case that was blown out of proportion," Kielty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Eighteen states have laws on Internet harassment. Missouri's law covers threats or communication that causes emotional distress, including electronic messaging on computers, text messaging and email. Charges can be filed as felonies or misdemeanors. Two cases have been filed in St. Louis City and one each in Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln and St. Louis counties.

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