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.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions