Today, a New Jersey grand jury indicted Dharun Ravi with hate crime charges. Ravi was a freshman at Rutgers University when he streamed footage of his roommate, Tyler Clementi, becoming intimate with another man on September 19, 2010. Tragically, on September 22, Clementi committed suicide by leaping from the George Washington Bridge.
If he is convicted, Ravi could receive five to ten years in prison for invading his roommate’s privacy and attempting to cover up his actions– the 19-year old deleted a tweet that invited people to watch Clementi a second time and did other desperate things:
In addition, prosecutors accuse Ravi of attempting to mislead the investigation, deleting text messages and Twitter posts, and trying to persuade witnesses not to testify against him. He is charged with evidence and witness tampering, and hindering prosecution. [The Record]
According to ABC news, “Ravi filmed Clementi with the purpose of intimidating him” for being attracted to other men:
Ravi “disclosed a photograph, film, videotape, recording or other reproduction of the image of [Clementi]…whose intimate parts were exposed,” the indictment reads.
The enormous amount of publicity surrounding the case means it will be scrutinized:
Legal scholars said the case would be closely watched and could have ripple effects. “Charging this as a bias crime may send a message to prosecutors who are dealing with similar cases in other states about the particularly damaging consequences of this kind of crime,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the Columbia Law School Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. [NYT]
The case against Molly Wei–Dharun Ravi’s friend and co-defendant– is still active, though she was not indicted. Ravi went to Wei’s room to accommodate Clementi’s request for privacy…and spy on his roomate via webcam. Ravi and Wei are no longer Rutgers students.
Clementi’s family had hoped that pursuing a case against Ravi would emphasize that his actions were more than a prank:
“The grand jury indictment spells out cold and calculated acts against our son Tyler by his former college roommate,” the Clementi family said in a statement released after the indictment was returned.
“If these facts are true, as they appear to be, then it is important for our criminal justice system to establish clear accountability under the law. We are eager to have the process move forward for justice in this case and to reinforce the standards of acceptable conduct in our society,” the Clementi family said. [Reuters]
Clementi’s parents aren’t the only ones who hope the indictment sends a message to other potential bullies:
Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a gay-rights advocacy group, said “potential bullies will now think harder before demolishing another student’s life.” [NYT]