Dharun Ravi found guilty of hate crimes for spying on gay Rutgers roommate.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES (MARCH 16, 2012) (TRUTV POOL) - A jury convicted Dharun Ravi of hate crimes on Friday (March 16) after he used a computer webcam to view his Rutgers University roommate kissing another man in a case that sparked a national outcry over gay bullying.
Ravi, 20, faces 10 years in prison on the most serious charges of bias intimidation against Tyler Clementi, 18, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge days after learning that his gay encounter was seen by webcam. Ravi, who invited others to watch the feed from the camera mounted on top of his computer, was not charged with causing Clementi's death.
Ravi, an Indian citizen who has lived most of his life in the United States, will be sentenced on May 21 and continues to be free on $25,000 (USD) bail after surrendering his passport.
After 12 hours of deliberations over three days, the jury convicted Ravi on all 15 counts. Ravi covered his mouth with his hand and his eyes widened as the verdict was read in a courtroom in Middlesex County, New Jersey.
Clementi's death on September 22, 2010, came amid a spate of gay teen suicides nationwide, triggering President Obama to condemn bullying, speeding passage of New Jersey's anti-bullying law and prompting Rutgers to offer "gender-neutral housing," which gives students more options when it comes to choosing a roommate.
The case initially sparked headlines about cyber-bullying, in part because of incorrect media reports that Ravi recorded Clementi having sex and broadcast it on the Web.
In considering the hate crime charges, the jury had to decide whether Ravi was deliberately trying to intimidate Clementi or the other man because of their sexuality, or, alternatively, if they thought that Clementi could reasonably believe he was being targeted for being gay.
Going to trial was a gamble for Ravi, who turned down the prosecutor's offer of a plea deal recommending probation, community service and the promise to help Ravi, who is not a U.S. citizen, if immigration authorities tried to deport him to India.
Ravi was accused of using the webcam to watch Clementi's date with a 30-year-old man, identified only as M.B., on September 19, 2010, and for attempting to do the same when M.B. returned to the room on September 21, 2010. Ravi said he had disabled his webcam before leaving the room on September 21. In any case, Clementi unplugged Ravi's computer that evening.
Ravi told investigators he accessed his webcam from a friend's laptop on September 19 only to find out what was going on in his room. He said he wanted to be sure his belongings were safe after Clementi asked to use the room alone with M.B., whom Clementi had met online.
According to the defense, Ravi turned off the webcam seconds after he unexpectedly saw the two men kissing. He said his Twitter post two days later, that dared others to remotely access the camera to spy on Clementi and M.B. was a joke. No video or images were seen that night.
Matched randomly as freshmen roommates, Ravi from Plainsboro, New Jersey and Clementi from Ridgewood, New Jersey, seemed to have little in common: Ravi was an outwardly confident and popular student who enjoyed tinkering with computers and playing on the university's Ultimate Frisbee team; Clementi was a quieter, more insular young man with a talent for the violin.
After the verdict was read, Clementi's family addressed the media. Tyler's father Joe read from a statement while seated next to his wife, Jane and son James.
"The trial was painful for us as it would be for any parent to sit and listen to people talk about bad and inappropriate things that were done to their child," said Clementi.
He added, "Just a word about personal responsibility. To our college, high school and even middle school youngsters, I would say this: You are going to meet a lot of people in your lifetime, some of these people you may not like, but just because you don't like them, does not mean you have to work against them. When you see somebody doing something wrong, tell them, 'That's not right. Stop it.' You can make the world a better place. The change you want to see in the world begins with you."
Ravi will be sentenced in New Jersey on May 21.