Verdict in Rutgers Webcam Trial
A jury found Dharun Ravi guilty of invasion of privacy for spying on his Rutgers University roommate Tyler Clementi and other charges.
The jury deliberated for 12 hours for more than two days and also convicted him of tampering with physical evidence.
The 15-count indictment included several bias intimidation charges, because prosecutors claimed Ravi bullied Clementi for being gay. The jury of seven women and five men agreed, finding him guilty of hate crimes, The New York Times reports.
In all Ravi was convicted of bias, invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension and witness tampering, according to the Star-Ledger. The newspaper reported he could be deported to India, his country of birth.
What the verdict means
The verdict carries a possible sentence of five to 10 years, according to ABC News. Sentencing is set for May 21.
The case became known as the “Rutgers Webcam Spy” trial because Ravi, 20, was accused of using a computer camera to watch his freshman roommate Clementi in a romantic embrace with another man in their Rutgers University dorm room. Clementi committed suicide days later in September 2010. Ravi wasn’t charged as a factor in the death, but he became inextricably linked with the end of Clementi’s life.
“It appears the jury thought long and hard, particularly about bias intimidation and hate crimes,” said HuffPost Gay Voices Editor-At-Large Michelangelo Signorile. “It’s a just verdict that will send a message about the seriousness of bias-motivated crimes.”
What Ravi allegedly did?
Prosecutors alleged that Ravi spied on Clementi by going to a friend’s room where he tapped into a webcam to watch his roommate in a romantic moment with another man. Clementi found out that Ravi had seen him in an intimate encounter and that he had written about it on his Twitter account.
What the webcamming caused?
Clementi, then 18, asked dormitory officials to change his room, but committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010.
The case was followed across the country because it centered on the chain of events that led up to Clementi’s death.
Ravi was charged with bias intimidation — essentially a hate crime — for writing on Twitter about seeing him “kissing a dude” and inviting friends to watch a second tryst between Clementi and a man known only as “M.B.”
The witness and evidence tampering charges stem from allegations that Ravi altered his Twitter posts to cover his tracks after Clementi died. They also said he tried to coordinate statements made to police by Molly Wei, a friend who also saw Clementi via the webcam.
The jurors could only find Ravi guilty of the anti-gay bias charge if they first decided he was guilty of invasion of privacy.
But Ravi’s defense tried instead to portray him as an immature college student who used poor judgment for a college prank, not as someone who hated gay people. Instead, they said Ravi was suspicious of “M.B.” because he was older — in his mid- to late-20s — and had a disheveled appearance.
Molly Wei testimony
More than 30 witnesses took the stand in the 13-day trial. Wei, who was also indicted but avoided prison time by agreeing to testify against Ravi, said “it felt wrong” to watch Clementi and his date.
What witnesses said about Ravi
A former player on Ravi’s ultimate frisbee team testified that he seemed uncomfortable with having a gay roommate. But several other witnesses said they didn’t think Ravi had a problem with gay people.
What the Roommates sexual partner said
There was a great degree of anticipation over whether Clementi’s date, “M.B.” would be called to the stand. In the end, he did testify, but his identity was concealed, because he was also considered a victim of the alleged crimes.
“I noticed there was a webcam faced over in the direction of the bed. I just thought it was strange. Being in a compromising position,” M.B. said according to the New York Post. “It just caught my eye that there was a camera lens looking right at me.”
Defense used character witnesses
The defense began its case by calling a series of character witnesses — mostly business partners of Ravi’s father and other family friends — who said Ravi was not prejudiced. Speculation mounted that Ravi would opt to speak, but on Monday the defense rested its case without his testimony.
What Ravi had to say
The only time jurors heard from Ravi was in a taped interview with police that was played in court. In that interview,
Ravi admitted to violating Clementi’s privacy, but says he was not expecting to see a romantic moment.
“I didn’t realize it was something so private,” he said.