Student ‘guilty’ of invading privacy of gay room-mate

 

New York

A former student faces up to 10 years behind bars after being found guilty of a hate crime for cyber-snooping on his gay roommate who later jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in New York.

A New Jersey jury sided today with prosecutors concluding that the defendant, 20-year-old Dharun Ravi, had invaded the privacy of his roommate, Tyler Clementi, at a Rutgers University dormitory in September 2010, when he live-streamed a homosexual encounter between him and a visitor using a web-camera on his computer. Jurors also accepted one charge that Ravi had been motivated by a bias against gays.

Cyber-bullying of gays and other minorities represents relatively uncharted territory for prosecutors but is becoming increasingly high profile and yesterday’s verdicts will set an important legal precedent. It will also send a message about the dangers of posting private material on social media and elsewhere online.

“If you engage in cyber-bullying by broadcasting this kind of information you are facing very serious jail time,” former federal prosecutor, Paul Callon, told CNN.

Ravi was a first-year student at Rutgers when he was randomly assigned to share a room with Clementi, a much shyer person and an accomplished violinist. Clementi, who had come out as a gay to his parents weeks earlier, asked one evening early in the term if he could have the room to himself for a few hours. 

The facts of what happened next were not disputed by the defence. Ravi angled his webcam to capture what might happen between Clementi and his visitor, a 32-year-old who testified at the trial. When they kissed, Ravi and some others watched on a monitor in another room. He also advertised what he saw on Twitter.

He returned to Twitter when Clementi asked to be alone again two nights later.

“I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it’s happening again,” Ravi tweeted. He also texted a friend about a ‘viewing party’ he would hold.  The second encounter never happened. Clementi had seemingly realised what had happened after reading Ravi’s tweet messages. Before committing suicide in September 2010, he posted a farewell on Facebook: “Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry.” The George Washington Bridge links New York City to New Jersey.

The death of Clementi, which coincided with a rash of suicides by teen gays across America that drew comment from President Barack Obama, did not feature in the charges against Ravi and only came up incidentally in the trial. The most important charge, however, was of ‘bias intimidation’, implying that homophobia had been a motivation for Ravi and that Clementi had himself felt intimidated because he was gay.

While the jury rejected some sub-charges of bias intimidation, they convicted Ravi on one overarching charge. That one verdict alone stands to double his prison time.  Ravi, who was largely expressionless during the reading of the verdicts, is set to be sentenced on 20 May.

While friends and family of Ravi were seated on one side of the courtroom, the family of Mr Clementi were on the other. His father, Joe, addressed himself to college students and other young people in a press conference after the verdicts. “You’re going to meet a lot of people in your life. Some of these people you may not like. Just because you don't like them doesn't mean you have to work against them.”

Rutgers said in a statement: “This sad incident should make us all pause to recognise the importance of civility and mutual respect in the way we live, work and communicate with others.”

News
people
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam