Tuesday, 20 November 2007

In October 2006, a troubled young girl in Missouri named Megan Meier committed suicide. Her medical records have not been disclosed, but an adult woman has been accused of harassing Megan over the Internet; perhaps contributing to the feelings of depression which lead Megan to take her own life. The adult woman, who is married and has a young daughter of the same age as Megan, has not been charged with a crime.

In the past few days, a host of web sites and blogs have suddenly taken an interest in this tragic story. Interestingly, these sites condemn what the adult woman allegedly did to the Megan Meier, yet they simultaneously encourage, enable, and facilitate their readers to take similar actions and worse against the adult woman and her family.

These web sites and blogs invariably tell the story from a one-sided perspective and portray the adult woman as a villain who is principally to blame for the suicide. Although this woman has not been convicted, tried, nor even charged with a crime, the sites invariably begin with an assumption of her guilt. They then seek to exact revenge and punishment on her and her family. The comment areas on the sites are filled with hate speech, threats, and lust for vengeance. The general climate is reminiscent of a lynch mob equipped with torches and pitchforks, worked into a self-sustaining rage.

The sites post personal information about the woman and her family such as home and business addresses, e-mail addresses, phone, fax, and cellphone numbers; and encourage their readers to track down more information. This information is posted with no legitimate purpose or rationale for its presence. One can safely conclude the objective is to facilitate illegal harassment, vandalism, or worse.

These sites encourage readers to boycott and destroy the business of the woman's family. Evidently they have not thought this through: Successfully eliminating the family's source of income could result in them being directly supported by these same readers' taxes, through welfare and foodstamps. Of course, no one has accused the bloggers of being very bright in their blood-lust.

Over the past months, the woman and her family have been victimized by illegal harassment, vandalism, bricks thrown through their windows, and false 911 police calls to their home. Note that a brick could easily kill the child or other occupant, and false police calls can result in death of someone elsewhere who really needs the police. Despite such history, or perhaps encouraged by it, the blog sites call for more...


Bluemerle site Let's examine this site first...

The owner of this site, Sarah Wells, is credited wth being one of the first to "break" the names of the family. She states "Why I or anyone would go looking for (woman's name)'s identity is no mystery...It was curiosity and disbelief that led me to search, at first. at first... " (sic) Mrs. Wells never finishes her explanation, and cleverly avoids giving a legitimate rationale for posting the information on the Internet. Moreover, she has allowed address, phone, and fax and cell phone numbers to be posted on her site, along with instructions to "Let (woman's name) know how you feel" She also has instructions posted how to text-message the woman. Sounds a lot like harassment, doesn't it? Isn't that illegal? Sara Wells herself says the woman deserves "scorn."

For days, Mrs. Wells encouraged and fed the vengeful frenzy. She even allowed death threats on her site while selectively deleting other posts which did not meet her approval. (I have archived copies of her site over several days to back up this assertion.) Eventually, Mrs. Wells began to make token disclaimer statements against violence. She eventually removed the death threat posting after repeated entreaties, but apologized to the poster with the comment "Sorry, you are drawing trolls."

As of this morning, the personal contact information is still on Sarah's site. Sarah Wells has simply said the information is there so that "people can get in touch with the woman for legitimate reasons...one may wish to simply know how to avoid her" Sarah Wells believes she is doing a favor of providing this woman's phone number so that we may block her incoming calls. Interesting... The question is: "Would a reasonable person think this information is more likely to be used for legitimate means or criminal harassment?" One can speculate about the true state of Mrs. Wells' mind, but even she herself may not know...

Sarah Wells says "I prefer to be obscure but discoverable. I let it lurk, little monster in the deep, like a seabeast dangling unlit bait, until such time it flashes on the hot-donut sign and draws the little fishes into it's fangtooth maw. For a purpose. Or a service"

To help anyone get in touch with the self-proclaimed "Little Monster" Sarah Wells for "legitimate reasons," here is a little of her discoverable public information. Please be civil to her, although she may respond with less-than-civil name calling. Vengeful people often aren't very nice to talk to.

Sarah Wells is 45 years old, posts under her own name and lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and teenage son (who I will not name, nor disclose other details about). Her approx. 50-year old husband Michael O. Wells is a well known attorney admired for his role as an imperonator/interpreter of the great patriot, Patrick Henry. He has performed widely in this role and you can see him at St. John's church in Richmond. If you can stomach the thought of his wife's vigilantism, these performances are well worth seeing. As far as I know, Patrick Henry himself did not endorse vigilantism.

Sarah Wells
406 Waveny Road, Richmond, VA 23229

Michael O. Wells
Smith & Wells, P.C.
1330 Alverser Plaza
Midlothian, VA 23113
tel: 804-794-8070 fax: 804-794-5475

Pictures of Sarah and Michael Wells

Picture of Sarah WellsPicture of Michael Wells

Map to her house (will open in a new browser window)

Aerial view of her house (will open in a new browser window)

Photos of her house (coming soon)

Links of original infamous post by Mrs. Wells
Bluemerle: Lori Drew CNN capture - Police report names Drew


Details of other sites and their owners promoting vigilantism and mob justice for Megan Meier will follow. If anyone has suggestions of particularly egregious sites or bloggers, please pass them along, and I will get things rolling.

Jezebel.com has posted stories which have inspired violent reactions and disclosure of private information. One might wonder how their female writers and editors would feel about their own photos, addresses, and phone numbers being publicly posted on the Internet. Fortunately, they do seem to be cooling down a bit after some probing questions. Unfortunately, they are not policing the posters who sound like an al-quaida cell plotting death and destruction.

Gillian has also come around and is policing her Blogging the burbs site. Thank you, Gillian.


TheMommason said...

You really are one sick bitch Lori!

dougsa said...

Well, it's good that Lori has you for a friend, because I couldn't defend someone so evil. I read HER OWN account on thesmokinggun.com police report and she actually talked sex with the girl! She's a pedophile too! vile. and now some of the blogs are starting to dig into her past. Poor, petty, evil woman. But I doubt anyone is going to get to bother any of the poeple you are listing on your blog, but good luck defending Lori. Even murderers need a laywer.

aes said...

dougsa, Please read more carefully. I am no friend to Lori and I agree with you these allegations against her are very serious. I am neither the prosecutor nor defender of Lori. Most importantly not the avenger to carry out a sentence. Only the law has authority to prosecute and punish. No one should bother anyone listed on this site. The information is posted for legitimate purposes only.

aes said...

TheMommason, Your comments are off-topic and unnecessary. This is not a message board for your "friend" Lori. Please try to live your own life and stop obsessing. Maybe you should seek professional help.

Jenna said...

Thank you for your comments and your blog. These people seem to be on a witch hunt - I am glad I do not live anywhere near this town. They are setting a fine example for their children about how to solve problems and discuss serious issues in order to resolve them and move on. I hope in this case justice and cool heads will prevail, but I have my doubts.

Toots said...

I don't see any real point to this, as it does not follow the logic of what drives internet mob mentality.

Very few people have a reason to be angry at Sarah Wells, and even fewer are going to bother trying to contact her. It might stir up a small nuisance for her that will be over in a day or so, if that.

But I guess if that's what floats your boat ...

Steve said...

There are a couple problems with your commentary. First of all, Lori Drew isn't accused or anything; she admitted to her reprehensible behavior in a police report. Whether or not she has broken the law, she has by her own admission done something truly horrible. There is every reason for civilized society to shame and shun this woman, which many bloggers have done. No one should call for or commit vandalism, pranks, etc. against Lori Drew, but publicaly identifying such evil people serves an important purpose in maintaining a just society.

Surely you agree, since you saw fit to publish the identity of one such blogger whose actions you disapprove of - and that blogger never called for vigilante actions against the Drew family.

aes said...

toots, I'm not certain exactly what you mean in your first sentence. I would hope no one contacts Sarah Wells, Lori Drew, or anyone else in anger, no without legitimate reason. For the record, I myself am not angry at Mrs. Wells and have not phoned her. I think she is misguided and wrong, and I strongly disagree with her views, but I'm not angry at her.

Publishing threats of bodily harm is expressly forbidden by the rules of Sarah Wells' web site provider. Yet she did in fact publish death threats and only removed them after several days and numerous entreaties. When Mrs. Wells removed the death threats, she actually apologized for doing so and claimed it was because the post was "drawing trolls." Odd way for Mrs. Wells to express her alleged aversion to violence, don't you think?

Mrs. Wells feels she was within bounds to have the death threat on her site because it was left by an "anonymous" visitor and she did not actually write the threat herself. Her token statements against illegal behaviour do not ring sincere in light of the death threats, phone numbers, and explicit instructions how to send harrassing text messages.

Many of the posters on Mrs. Wells' and other sites are possibly committing or conspiring to commit felony offenses, and Mrs. Wells is enabling and facilitating those crimes. In my opinion, Sarah Wells' and other sites are fanning the flames of hatred by providing a forum for hate speech. Such hatred has already inspired crimes against the family of Lori.

Does that help you understand what floats my boat?

aes said...

Steve, I have seen enough police reports to know they are not always completely accurate and reliable representations of events. Interestingly, the report does not contain any admission of intent to cause death, in contrast to many of the vigilantes' remarks. However, Lori's behaviour does look reprehensible. I neither condone nor defend LD's actions. I have never met the woman, and do not care to. I don't need Lori's address and phone number to avoid her.

Allow me to repeat for those with reading comprehension difficulties: I do not in any way condone or defend the actions of the woman named in the police report. Lori is not my friend and I do not care to associate with her.

If anyone wishes to shame and shun another person, one does not need his/her telephone numbers. Such personal information serves no legitimate legal purpose. Posting those numbers in the company of hate speech will inevitably lead to no good. Unfortunately for all, Lori has not and may not be charged with a crime. On the other hand, the self-proclaimed avengers who threaten, plot and carry out acts against her are clearly criminals in the same vein or worse. Moreover, by appointing themselves as judge, jury, and punisher, the vigilantes attempt to place themselves outside the law.

Harassing phone calls and text messages are a misdemeanor under Missouri law, and a felony if they contain threats of death or injury. According to Chapter 565 of the Missouri Revised Statutes:

"Harass", to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that serves no legitimate purpose, that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and that actually causes substantial emotional distress to that person. Any person who purposely and repeatedly harasses or follows with the intent of harassing another person commits the crime of stalking. The crime of stalking shall be a class A misdemeanor for the first offense...

"Any person who purposely and repeatedly harasses or follows with the intent of harassing or harasses another person, and makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of death or serious physical injury, commits the crime of aggravated stalking. The crime of aggravated stalking shall be a class D felony for the first offense"

Sadly, there is better evidence and legal grounds for criminal prosecution of the members of the vigilante mob, than is to prosecute Lori for the same crime.

Toots said...

I agree that the calls by some to commit felonies is wrong, however it is my opinion that Lori Drew is just as guilty for fanning the flames as anybody else. She could have come out and apologized, or even just stayed silent. But she hasn't shown anything but contempt really, and with that, she's just inviting this type of behavior as she is pressing some dangerous buttons of human instict.

As for the taxpayers supporting the family when their company goes under (which it already supposedly has, according to a few area business owners who advertised with her and who posted on another blog), I think many people would take the trade off in this case.

Aurelius said...

aes - While I am no fan of internet vigilantism, your post and comments make an implicit assumption that your readers, and certainly your opponents , may well disagree with: namely that the law is the only legitimate means to punish those who commit moral wrongs.

I would argue, as would many ethicists, psychologists and sociologists, that shame in the form of communal shunning and decrying of an offensive individual is an essential element of society's survival - and one which the law cannot wholly replace.

Am I condoning any/all of what has happened to LD? Certainly not. But your post is no more convincing. It is human nature to seek to punish those who have clearly committed a grievous moral wrong and not suffered just punishment for it. To try and deny this fact, or limit it to the "legal system" is hardly satisfying. If you want to convince the mob you so clearly despise, perhaps you should try and convince them that LD has already paid for her crime, rather than simply dismissing her actions.

aes said...

toots, Since there is pending civil and possible criminal legal action, LD needs to keep quiet. That is standard legal advice for anyone facing possible charges or lawsuits, regardless of one's actual guilt, innocence, or culpability. It's unfortunate if that, as you say pushes buttons, but anyone familiar with the legal system would not expect any statements at this point.

You want your tax dollars to support this person and her family because they could not find employment? Ok, but that would not be my choice. The world is full of unsavoury characters, some far worse. The welfare rolls could be overloaded rather quickly if we used Lori as the baseline for who gets to work.

aes said...

Aurelius, I'm not a sociologist. If it's "human nature" to live by mob rule and anarchy, then at some point didn't we get civilised and institute laws and due process?

I have no objection to communal shunning and decrying. It's just the stalking, harassing, vandalism, and other crimes against LD which need to be stopped.

Angela said...

I'm not going to condemn you, because everyone is going to have their own views on the situation. I just don't get why you'd want to publish the address, phone numbers, etc of others when you speak against people doing the exact same thing to Lori.

With what you've said, and the information you've posted about Sarah, it doesn't really seem like you're much better than those that have listed Lori's personal information.

All I can really say is, would you want people to seek out your personal information to announce to the world so people could harass you?

aes said...

Angela, That's a very good question and good points. To quell immediate curiosity for you and others, the short answer is to get people's attention, including hers. (Wasn't that obvious?) I have no fear Mrs. Wells will suffer any humiliation or harassment as a result of her address and phone number being posted here. Can she say the same about Lori?

Sarah Wells is, after all, a hero to her fellow vigilantes. Lori has no such corresponding band of avengers clamouring for the blood of her persecutors. Furthermore much of the information came from Mrs. Wells' own web site and the rest is publicly available. She herself said she wanted to be discoverable, and makes no effort to hide. Mrs. Wells is not stupid and certainly knew her own information would be posted. So far she has made no objections to me about it. I am opposed to any illegal harassment of Sarah Wells with equal fervor.

Smartie said...

Did you ever hear about the Cathy Sierra saga, from earlier this year? The lynch mob were out in force on that one too, and they didn't have all the facts but that didn't stop them making hideous threats against the "bad guy".