Drew is alleged to have helped create a fake identity on MySpace called Josh Evans through whom she then approached and cyber-befriended her next-door neighbour Megan Meier. Evans, supposedly 16, exchanged flirtatious emails with Meier over five weeks and then on October 17 2006 told her he was moving away from the suburb of St Louis in which she lived.
She replied: "I love you so much."
A week later the exchanges grew darker in tone, with Evans sending emails the prosecution claims were emotionally cruel. One read: "I don't know if I want to be friends with you any more because I've heard you are not very nice to your friends," and a final one said: "The world would be a better place without you."
Within an hour of receiving that message, the indictment against Drew alleges, Meier went up to her bedroom and hanged herself from the closet.
During the resulting public furore over such an extreme case of alleged cyberbullying, local and federal prosecutors in Missouri sought to bring charges but were unable to find any existing laws that could be applied.
In the absence of those laws, federal prosecutors in California, 1,600 miles away from Meier's home, have seized on an unusual and controversial route in an attempt to bring charges against Drew. They have invoked the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984, which is usually applied against hackers seeking to break into computers in order to steal valuable information.
In this case the prosecution argues that the servers used by MySpace, which are maintained in Los Angeles, hence the location of the trial, were violated by Drew and her unnamed co-conspirators who used false information to set up the account and therefore broke the website's terms of service. MySpace is not a party to the prosecution, but has so far not protested against the action.
Drew was expected in court to record her plea, and her defence team said she was likely to challenge the case against her. She will be allowed home to Missouri while a trial date is pending.
The charges are thought to be the first of their kind involving a social networking website, and lawyers say they have far-reaching implications for the way in which the internet is used. However, many legal experts are sceptical that the prosecution will succeed in applying a law commonly used against hackers to the much more common practise of setting up a pseudonymous page in breach of the website's rules.
Dave Heller, of the Media Law Resource Centre in New York, said the circumstances of the case were distressing. "There are areas of hurtful speech that take place on the internet that the state certainly has an interest to limit."
But if the charges against Drew stand, they would have widespread implications for internet users, he said. "What's staggering is that the accused is charged with illegally gaining access to a computer network because she broke the rules of MySpace. Thousands of people are doing that all the time - registering anonymously on blogs, or posting offensive comments. If we take this prosecution seriously then they could all be impacted by it."
Meier's mother, Tina, has set up a foundation in her daughter's name in which she seeks to spread knowledge about the threat of cyberbullying.
She has also launched an individual commitment, the Megan Pledge, in which internet users vow to fight against bullying.