Student jumps to his death after roommate posts sex tape online

An American undergraduate took his own life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River after a supposedly private tryst with another man in his campus dormitory block was recorded illicitly by his roommate and a friend and broadcast live over the internet, according to prosecutors in New Jersey.

The apparent suicide of Tyler Clementi, 18, described as a shy young man and a talented violinist, has sent waves of anguish and shock across the campus of Rutgers University in New Jersey, just outside New York City, and raised questions not just about the bullying of gays in America but also abusive use of internet technology.

Officials said that the roommate, Dharun Ravi, and fellow Rutgers student Molly Wei, both 18, had been charged with invading Mr Clementi's privacy. Both could face prison sentences of up to five years if found guilty. Some legal experts said they may also face more serious federal hate crime charges.

Mr Clementi, a first-year student and member of a town orchestra, told Mr Ravi he needed their shared room to himself in the evening. Mr Ravi obliged but allegedly was able to dial into his own computer in the room and switch on his webcam. The encounter between Mr Clementi and his guest was then transmitted live to an audience of untold size.

Investigators have seized on a message sent out by Mr Ravi the same day via Twitter, the micro-blogging site. "Room-mate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay," Mr Ravi wrote on Twitter on 19 September. On 21 September, Mr Ravi allegedly tried it again. "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9.30 and 12. Yes it's happening again."

It was the next day, on 22 September, that two witnesses saw a man jumping off the bridge that connects Manhattan to New Jersey. Mr Clementi's wallet was found on the span but yesterday police officers were still hunting for his body. Mr Clementi ironically used the internet to telegraph his intentions to friends on his Facebook page. "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry," he wrote on the day of his death.

Mr Clementi was new campus where he had few close friends. Arkady Leytush, the artistic director of the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra where Mr Clementi played, said: "It's really awful, especially in New York and in the 21st century. It's so painful. He was very friendly and had very good potential."

A lawyer for the young man's family said he was "a fine young man, and a distinguished musician". "The family is heartbroken beyond words."

Mr Clementi seems destined in death to become a new symbol of the suffering that gay and lesbian individuals can experience if they are bullied or outed against their will. This case "may very well be prosecuted as a hate crime ultimately," said local human rights lawyer Paul Callan. But, he added: "There is a lot of cyber-bullying going on... and very little of it is ever prosecuted."

The anger of the gay and lesbian lobby has been instant. "We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind," said Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality. "And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others' lives as a sport."

Case studies: When cyber-bullying ends in tragedy

* When Megan Meier got a MySpace message from a 16-year-old boy, Josh Evans, she found him attractive. But later, Evans became cruel, telling her: "The world would be a better place without you." Twenty minutes after the last exchange between the two, Meier, 13, from Missouri, US, hanged herself. But the cause of her distress did not exist. In fact, Josh Evans was a fake account created by Lori Drew, the mother of a girl at Meier's school. Drew faced criminal charges but was eventually acquitted.

* Jessica Logan sent a nude picture of herself to her boyfriend. But when the couple broke up, he sent the pictures on to others at their Ohio high school. Girls started calling the 18-year-old a "slut" and a "whore", and Logan started skipping school. In mid-2008, she went on TV to warn others of the perils of passing such pictures on. But two months later she had committed suicide.

* Mark Drybrough and Nadia Kajouji thought they were talking to a female nurse, who advised them in a chat room on how to take their own lives, which they did. They were actually speaking to a Minnesota man, William Melchert-Dinkel. Prosecutors said he encouraged "dozens" of people to kill themselves. Believed to have made false suicide pacts with some victims and charged with encouraging suicide, he has been told to stay off the internet until the case is resolved.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee