FILED IN: News & Politics

Ex-Rutgers student found guilty of hate crime in webcam suicide case

Dharun Ravi could face 10 years in jail and deportation for setting up webcam to spy on roommate

Former Rutgers student was found guilty today on several counts in a case of cyber-bullying. Image via NJTodayOnline.

The case that brought the effects of cyber-bullying into the national spotlight ended in a guilty verdict for a former Rutgers student today.

Dharun Ravi, who was accused of setting up a hidden webcam to spy on his college roommate Tyler Clementi, was found guilty of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate-crime charge that could land him in jail for 10 years.

The jury decided that Ravi not only set up a webcam to record and broadcast a sexual encounter Clementi had with another man, but that he did it because of an anti-gay bias against his former roommate. After learning he was a victim of the hidden camera, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in September of 2010.

Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director of the gay rights organization Lambda Legal, told the Washington Post:  “The verdict today demonstrates that the jurors understood that bias crimes do not require physical weapons like a knife in one’s hand.”

Ravi, 20, rejected a plea bargain in December that would have allowed the judge to waive any jail time. Now, in addition to the prison sentence, he could face deportation to his native India even though he has been a U.S. citizen for most his life.

Legal analyst Paul Callan told CNN that the verdict “unprecedented” and said it sends a “strong message.”

The defense argued that Ravi had made an immature mistake but that his actions were not an anti-gay hate crime.

“He hasn’t lived long enough to have any experience with homosexuality or gays,” attorney Steven Altman said in closing arguments.

Ravi and Clementi were both 18-year-old freshmen when they had been assigned to live together in a Rutgers dorm back in 2010. Clementi had only recently come out to his parents as gay.

On Sept. 19 and 21 Ravi allegedly set up his webcam to secretly record his dorm room while Clementi was alone with another male guest. According to testimony, Ravi also arranged “viewing parties” to watch the recording remotely in another student’s dorm.

Ravi tweeted about the parties, including this Sept. 19 post: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

The high-profile nature of the case – which spawned responses from President Obama and Ellen DeGeneres – resulted in strengthening of New Jersey anti-bullying laws.