Trial opens in Rutgers webcam kiss case

Started by Granny B, February 26, 2012, 02:00:41 AM

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Granny B

Trial opens in Rutgers webcam kiss case
By Jonathan Allen | Reuters - Fri, Feb 24, 2012

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey (Reuters) - Prosecutors on Friday opened the trial of a former Rutgers University student who used a webcam to spy on his roommate's homosexual tryst, saying he violated the "dignity and privacy" of his roommate who later committed suicide.

Dharun Ravi, 19, faces 15 counts of invasion of privacy, witness and evidence tampering and bias intimidation, a hate crime, in New Jersey's Middlesex County Court.

He rejected an earlier plea deal and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted in the case that captured the attention of the public and brought up questions about bullying, teen suicide and privacy in the digital age.

Ravi's lawyers on Friday said their client may have behaved childishly, but he did not commit any crime.

Ravi used a webcam on September 19, 2010, to watch Tyler Clementi, who was kissing another man in their dormitory room - a video that a witness testified showed little more than two indistinct figures.

Clementi, 18, jumped off the George Washington Bridge three days later. Ravi is not charged with causing Clementi's death.

"Someone once said never take away another person's dignity. It means everything to them and nothing to you," prosecutor Julia McClure told the jury.

"This isn't about Dharun Ravi having to like Tyler Clementi's sexual orientation ... but it is about having the decency to respect it and to respect Tyler's dignity and privacy," she said.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Steven Altman emphasized Ravi's youth, saying: "He's a boy, childish, at times immature. He was 18."

Ravi and Clementi shared the dorm room, he noted in an apparent strategic effort to undermine the invasion of privacy charge by noting that Ravi was looking into his own room.

He also noted that Ravi made no recording of the incident nor did he put it online.

"That viewing lasted 2 to 5 seconds," the defense attorney said. "Nobody saw anything."

Four friends of Ravi's appeared as witnesses, including Austin Chung, who testified that Ravi had not mentioned any problems with his roommate.

"He actually told me that Tyler was a nice guy," he said.

Witness Cassandra Cicco, one of a handful of students who saw the video, said it was not considered a big deal in the dorm.

"All of us were, like, oh, that happened, and that was the end of it," she said.

Members of the Ravi and Clementi families were in court for the first day of testimony. Ravi, dressed neatly in a dark suit and tie, watched attentively from the defense table.

Experts say it may be difficult to prove the incident was a hate crime. For such a conviction, prosecutors must prove Ravi attempted to intimidate Clementi for being gay. Both were freshmen at the time.

Another student, Molly Wei, also was originally charged in the case, accused of watching the tryst along with Ravi. She has entered a plea deal that requires her to testify against Ravi.

Testimony was scheduled to resume on Monday.

(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Paul Thomasch)
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy


While I'm not completely for homosexuality, that was not okay. I see no reason why h should not be charged with manslaughter. I hope they nail him to the wall.
My reason for supporting the death penalty? A murderer has less of a right to live than his victim and already presents a danger while incarcerated for life. They have nothing to lose when the most they can get is Life in prison without parole.


You are who you are. This poor kid was probably looking at college as a chance to be himself, and look what he got! Very Sad! I am a RU Alumni. Disgraceful!
"Indeed, the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death."  SCOTUS

Peace and Comfort to all Victims and Families

Granny B

Everyone deserves a life and some expectation of privacy. 

What he did, is more like a stupid teen high school prank, which angers me.  By college they should be more mature and ready to leave that crap behind.

People like him are why I did not want to attend college right out of HS.  I just could not take that shyte any more.  They were just too immature for me.  That's why I would never date HS boys when I was in HS.

I am glad that I waited till I was grown and a mother of 3 teens to go back and get my degrees.  I just did not put up with that crap.
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy


February 26, 2012, 10:03:37 PM Last Edit: February 26, 2012, 10:18:06 PM by time2prtee

I went to Douglass College, Rutgers University. A liberal arts all girl college. It was actually one of the original 7 sister colleges. I did not deal with any nonsense like that. We had a large gay/lesbian community and it was grown-ups. This is why this case kinda blows me away! Very sad for RU....I thought we were better than that.  :-[  (BTW that was 30 years ago!!!) - OOPS giving away my age LOL!

EDIT: I am not gay...not that there is anything wrong with that LOL! I am just ashamed at how this young man was treated!
"Indeed, the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death."  SCOTUS

Peace and Comfort to all Victims and Families


March 17, 2012, 05:38:08 PM Last Edit: March 17, 2012, 09:38:39 PM by time2prtee
Guilty verdict in Ravi webcam spying trial breaks new legal ground, and will likely face scrutiny

Rutgers law professor Louis Raveson and his New York Law School professor wife, Susan Abraham, sat rapt in front of their television on recent weeknights watching for hours on end a DVR playback of the cyberbullying and harassment trial of Dharun Ravi.

"I wanted to make up my own mind about whether the outcome comported with the evidence," Raveson said Friday after Ravi was convicted of all of the criminal counts against him, including those charging him with a hate crime against his former college roommate, Tyler Clementi, who was gay.

"And I think it was an incredibly important case, not just for New Jersey but for the country," he said.

Legal experts say the prosecution and trial of Ravi broke statewide criminal-law ground in that prosecutors charged him with a hate crime tied to a charge of invasion of privacy, rather than in conjunction with a more violent crime, like assault.

What's more, some experts say, one sub-section of New Jersey's hate crime statute is constitutionally suspect.

Prominent New Jersey defense lawyer Lawrence Lustberg said that sub-section bases guilt "on the state of mind of the victim as opposed to the state of mind of the defendant."

In most criminal statutes, the intent of the perpetrator is a key element in there being a crime.

Predicting a hard-fought appeal, Lustberg said the argument would be that "it is unprecedented for a conviction to be based on the state of mind of the victim."

"It is very worrisome to me that a defendant could be subjected to these very severe penalties based upon the state of mind of someone other than himself," Lustberg said before the verdict.

While Ravi was convicted under the subsection questioned by Lustberg, he was also found guilty under other subsections did consider Ravi's intent.
Dharun Ravi convicted of bias intimidation for Tyler Clementi spying case A Middlesex County jury convicted former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi, 20, on charges of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation this morning, ending a three-week trial that captured international attention. Ravi was convicted on parts of all the 15 counts against him stemming from an incident in September 2010, when Ravi set up a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, during a sexual encounter with another man. The other victim was not named in the trial and identified by prosecutors only as M.B. (Video by Mike Roy and Nyier Abdou/The Star-Ledger)

The case itself is based on a tragic set of circumstances that played out on the Rutgers campus in September 2010. Ravi, now 20, secretly used a webcam to remotely spy on an intimate tryst between Clementi, and an older man. Three days after the encounter, Clementi leaped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

Now that Ravi has been convicted of a hate crime, many legal observers view the outcome as a "message-sender," even a potential "culture-changer." In short, they say, the message is clear: Be sensitive and aware about invading the privacy of, and expressing any bigoted views publicly about, certain protected classes of people, like homosexuals.

"The case raises extremely interesting issues of criminal law and procedure," Lustberg said. "But none of those should interfere with the fundamental message that the verdict sends, which is that people should be wary before they invade other people's privacy, and particularly so where it appears the actions are based on some type of invidious discrimination."

Steven Altman, Ravi's defense attorney, vowed to appeal the verdict.

Raveson said a second issue of appeal -- in addition to a probable constitutional challenge to the bias-intimidation statute's sub-section -- is that the jury was made aware during the trial that Clementi had committed suicide.

Even though jurors were told not to let the suicide weigh into their deliberations -- Ravi was never charged in connection with Clementi's death -- "I think that it's impossible for jurors to do those kinds of mental gymnastics," Raveson said.

Still, for Raveson, the verdict, in which Ravi was also convicted of invasion of privacy and evidence tampering, was just.
Chairman of gay advocacy group in New Jersey makes a statement on the Dharun Ravi verdict Steven Goldstein is the Chair and CEO of Garden State Equality, the state's largest civil rights organization. Goldstein was satisfied with today's Dharun Ravi guilty verdict but by no means believed it was cause to celebrate. He went on to say that the penalty should not be as severe as the maximum of ten years in prison but that some jail time was needed. His hope is that the attention on this trial will force parents across the nation to speak to their children and teach them that bullying can not be tolerated. (Video by Andre Malok / The Star-Ledger)

Of Clementi's conduct after he realized he was being spied on, Raveson said, "First of all, he tried to get out of the room; he asked to be transferred. He also began looking at all of Ravi's tweets all day long to see what he was saying about him. And then he killed himself."

Raveson also said Ravi, of Plainsboro, should have known his actions could cause serious psychological harm.

"The anti-bullying campaign (in New Jersey) has been known for some time," he said. "High school students in this state know not to bully; they know the type of psychological damage can cause."

But defense lawyer Gerald Krovatin saw the trial and its outcome much differently.

"I was much more sympathetic to the defense arguments, that these were the careless acts of an 18-year-old who was exercising bad judgment," he said. "I didn't see evidence of conscious hatred, evidence of a malicious spirit here."

The hate crime conviction, he said, will subject Ravi to a harsher sentence of possibly five years or more in prison.

At the same time, juror Bruno Ferreira said the bias intimidation charge was the toughest for the panel to decide on.
tyler-clementi-facebook-photo.jpgFile photoA file photo of Tyler Clementi. Legal experts say the case, which came about after Clementi committed suicide, could be a "culture-changer."

"You can't know what someone's thinking," he said after the verdict was announced. "You have to get inside their head. Afterward, you think about (Ravi's webcam spying) not being done once, but being done twice another day. That's why we came to that conclusion."

For Rutgers law professor Laura Cohen, who specializes in criminal and juvenile justice law, the explanation by Ferreira seemed compelling.

"(He) knew what (he) was getting into the second time; there were texts that I guess were sent the second time that connected the decision to do it the second time to the fact that there was a man in the room" with Clementi.

Still, Cohen saw possible problems with the prosecution's case. She wondered what would have happened if Clementi's guest had been a woman.

"If he had set up the webcam (with a girl in the room), would this prosecution have ever had happened?" she said.

She also noted that there was no video posted on the Web of Clementi's encounter with the other man; there was no act of violence; there was no direct homophobic remarks made by Ravi to Clementi.

"So the question is: Whether the decision to charge the case this way is going to lead to a disproportionate punishment for what Ravi did," Cohen said.

WE R RU! This does really hurt!

"Indeed, the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death."  SCOTUS

Peace and Comfort to all Victims and Families


I am not sure how I feel about this sentence...too much...too little...I just do not know! 30 days in county jail...better him than me!

My thoughts and best wishes go out to Tyler's family!

Dharun Ravi sentence in Rutgers webcam case renews hate crime law debate
By Associated Press, Tuesday, May 22, 11:58 AM

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- A week before Dharun Ravi was sentenced to jail for using a webcam to spy on a gay college roommate who later killed himself, supporters rallied behind him, arguing that New Jersey laws should be changed so that someone in his situation could not be found guilty of a hate crime.

In sentencing Ravi to 30 days in jail when he could have gotten years, the judge said he does not consider the case a hate crime, even though the most serious charge, bias intimidation, is the legal name for what most people -- and legislators who have endorsed laws on the issue -- call a hate crime.

"I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi," Judge Glen Berman said Monday. "He had no reason to, but I do believe he acted out of colossal insensitivity."

The dramatic and emotional saga reignited, in practical terms, some questions where philosophy eclipses law: What is hate, and how can it be a crime?

In this case, Clementi and Ravi were assigned at random to be roommates in their first year at Rutgers, New Jersey's flagship public university, in the fall of 2010. By all evidence, they hardly talked. But Ravi told friends his roommate was gay -- and he wasn't happy about it.

On Sept. 19, Clementi asked Ravi to leave the room to make space for a guest.

Ravi went to a friend's dorm room and accessed the webcam on his own computer to see Clementi and his guest -- identified in court only by the initials M.B. -- kissing. He and his friend shut down the screen after a few seconds that time but told others about what they had seen.

Two days later, when Clementi asked for privacy again, Ravi told his Twitter followers how to see what was going on in the room that night.

The night after that, Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Jurors learned that Clementi had checked his roommate's Twitter feed repeatedly in the days before his suicide.

The case almost immediately touched a nerve among gay-rights and anti-bullying activists as an example of the harassment and challenges that young people, and young gays and lesbians in particular, can face. Among those speaking out in the aftermath were President Barack Obama and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

Prosecutors hit Ravi with 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy, tampering with evidence. The two most serious counts, bias intimidation, could have gotten him 10 years in prison, though prosecutors had said the maximum penalty was not necessary.

Ravi's lawyer, Steven Altman, said that his client was "demonized by the gay community" and that the case was "treated as if it's a murder case."

Ravi himself did not speak in court on Monday. His silence got him chastised by the judge, who wanted to hear an apology.

In an interview with The Star-Ledger that happened before the sentencing but was published afterward, Ravi said he didn't apologize because it "would sound rehearsed and empty."

"When politicians give public apologies, to me, it always sounds so insincere and false," he said. "No matter what I say, people will take it that way."

Indeed, Clementi's brother, James, who spoke at the sentencing, said that there was a time when an apology would have mattered to him. But he didn't want to hear one so late.

Critics of the bias-intimidation charge have argued it's what lawmakers had in mind when they crafted "hate crime" laws to mete out extra punishment to those who act out of bias against the victim's race, gender, sexual orientation, religions, national orientation or disability.

In New Jersey, a major push to adopt such laws came more than 20 years ago amid a string of attacks on Indian-Americans. The state's bias intimidation law dates to 2001 -- one of many similar laws adopted around the time after Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was beaten and left tied to a desolate fence post. He later died.

In 2009, Congress expanded federal hate-crimes legislation to cover crimes motivated by bias against gays, lesbians and transgender people. The bill is known as the Matthew Shepard Act.

Thursday evening, as they appeared on a panel after a screening of a documentary about the Shepard killing, Clementi's parents noted parallels with their son's case.

"While the circumstances were different, the effect was the same," Joe Clementi said.

Critics of the laws say they are troublesome because they require juries to consider the motive of the suspects -- not just their actions. And in New Jersey, along with some other states, a conviction can come because the victim reasonably believes he or she is being targeted out of bias.

The whole concept bothers Bill Dobbs, a New York City gay rights activist.

"Law and order cannot solve social problems," he said.

Dr. Sanjay Nath, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology and the Director of the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University in Chester, Pa., said he believes the sentence takes seriously what Ravi did and provides a reminder that people should think about the effects on others before they act. But he has trouble seeing what happened to Clementi as a hate crime

"Whether it's a hate crime, that part I can't wrap my mind around," he said.

"When someone beats someone up and says, 'You're a fag,' it's a hate crime."

Judge Berman, whose sentence for Ravi was far short of the 10-year maximum, said he looked at the bias intimidation laws in 39 states and found that New Jersey's was broader than most. The majority are used to increase sentences for those convicted of violent crimes.

In Ravi's case, the underlying crime was invasion of privacy. And whether he was hateful came up again and again.

Evidence provided by prosecutors included instant messages and tweets by Ravi that could be construed as youthful teasing, including, "I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

During the trial, Ravi's lawyers called just seven witnesses. The main question for all of them was: Did he hate gays? All of them said they did not know him to.

Last week, several hundred protesters gathered at the New Jersey State House to show support for Ravi and decry what they saw as injustices in New Jersey's hate-crime laws.

At his sentencing, his mother, Sabitha Ravi, tearfully pleaded with a judge not to send her son to prison. Dharun Ravi, she said, "doesn't have any hatred in his heart toward anybody."

Clementi's mother, Jane Clementi, also in tears, told the judge Ravi did deserve incarceration because, she said, Ravi was hateful toward her son.

"Why was he so arrogant, mean-spirited and evil?" she asked.

Clementi and her family did not comment after the sentencing. But the Middlesex County prosecutor's office made its position clear by announcing it planned to appeal the sentence.

He deserved more time for a hate crime, the office said.

Ravi is likely to appeal the conviction entirely.

"Indeed, the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death."  SCOTUS

Peace and Comfort to all Victims and Families

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