After more than 12 hours of deliberation, the jury in the Dharun Ravi case found him guilty on various major counts, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. Ravi faces five and 10 years of jail time for his involvement in using a webcam to spy on his Rutgers roommate, Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after a sexual encounter with another man was broadcast to other students.
The jury found Ravi motivated by anti-gay bias when he spied on his roommate. In addition to jail, Ravi could be deported to his native home of India. This was the first time in New Jersey that bias intimidation charges linked to invasion of privacy were brought against a defendant. It is possible that this case sets a precedent for how young adults interact with each other on the Internet.
Ravi, 20, was convicted of the most serious counts of bias intimidation. Of the 35 charges on 15 counts, 24 came in guilty, with 11 not guilty. The not guilty verdicts applied to Clementi’s companion during the incident, identified only as M.B.
Prosecutors in the case presented 20 witnesses over 10 days of testimony. The trial lasted more than a month and included students who lived in the same dormitory, law enforcement officials, Rutgers residence staff and computer experts. Witnesses for the prosecution said Ravi turned on the “automatic accept” feature on his webcam so it could be accessed anywhere.
When Clementi asked to use the dorm room on Sept. 19, 2001, Ravi turned on his webcam and saw the pair kissing. Ravi tweeted that he saw his “roommate making out with a dude.” Two days later, Clementi asked to use the room again. Ravi set up the camera and angled it at the bed, according to students who testified.
One witness said that Ravi was uncomfortable having a gay roommate and another said Ravi explained his computer would, “keep the gays away.”
The defense maintained Ravi only spied on his roommate because he felt uncomfortable having M.B. in the room and that he got a “bad vibe” from the visitor.
Clementi leaped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after a series of suicides of other young teenagers around the country who were bullied because they were gay.