A jury convicted a former Rutgers University student on most counts after using a webcam to spy on a roommate as he shared an intimate moment with a male acquaintance, which is said to have later drove him to suicide. The verdict came after three days of deliberations.
Prosecutors in Middlesex County, N.J. accused Dharun Ravi, 20, of viewing Tyler Clementi, 18, in an encounter with another man with a remote webcam and trying it again two days later. They said Ravi targeted Clementi because he was gay and tweeted what he saw to friends, who he invited to watch a second time in an attempt to humiliate Clementi. Three days after the webcam incident, Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.
Ravi had been charged with 15 counts of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence, The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports. He is not directly charged in Clementi’s death, but with the conviction, he faces 10 years in prison, and possible deportment to his native India.
However, Ravi’s lawyers had argued during the trial that he wasn’t prepared for what he saw on the camera and that his intent was not malicious. “Why we’re here is because on Sept. 19, and Sept. 21, 2010, an 18-year-old boy…had an experience, had an encounter that he wasn’t ready for,” defense attorney Steven Altman told the jury.
But prosecutors presented 20 witnesses over the course of the four-week trial, including the man Ravi caught Clementi kissing on the webcam. They said he set up the webcam in their dorm room and angled it to see what Clementi and the unidentified man were doing. He then tweeted to his followers and texted friends that he “saw his roommate making out with a dude.” After the suicides, Ravi deleted the text messages
The case became high profile after a rash of suicides of other gay teens who had been bullied or targeted. It also shed further light on cyberbullying and whether Ravi and his friends meant to intimidate Clementi because of his sexual orientation through technology like webcams. The Star-Ledger said Ravi showed no emotion as the verdict was read.
Ravi was convicted of most of the counts against him including invasion of privacy, attempted invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, tampering with physical evidence, witness tampering, and hindering apprehension or prosecution. However, he was acquitted of several counts of invasion of privacy.
Ravi is expected to face sentencing on May 21.