Trials & Litigation

Ex-Rutgers Student Guilty on Multiple Counts, Could Get Max in Webcam Hate Crime Case

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A former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate’s same-sex tryst has been found guilty on multiple charges but acquitted of bias intimidation today by a Middlesex County, N.J., jury.

Nonetheless, 20-year-old Dharun Ravi could face the maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and deportation, when he is sentenced later on, because the jury, in a verdict questionnaire sheet, determined that his actions had involved bias, CNN reports in a clarification article. Earlier news reports about the verdict said Ravi had beaten the rap on the most serious charge and hence would not get the max.

Ravi sat expressionless as the verdicts were read. He was found guilty of invasion of privacy, witness and evidence tampering and hindering apprehension, according to CNN, Fox News and the Star-Ledger.

His former roommate, Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, committed suicide in September 2010 by jumping off the George Washington Bridge a few days after he learned that his sexual encounter had been captured on camera.

At issue in the bias intimidation portion of the case was whether Ravi had targeted Clementi because of his sexual orientation.

The government argued that he did: “These acts were purposeful, they were intentional and they were planned,” prosecutor Julia L. McClure told the jury on the trial’s first day, later saying that Ravi “was bothered by Tyler Clementi’s sexual orientation.”

However, the defense contended that Ravi was simply thoughtless and immature, not biased.

“He hasn’t lived long enough to have any experience with homosexuality or gays,” defense attorney Steven Altman said at closing. “He doesn’t know anything about it. He just graduated high school.”

Ravi also said he had activated the webcam simply in order to keep an eye on his possessions when he was not in his dorm room, a Chicago Tribune article notes.

Additional coverage: “Rutgers Spycam Defendant Could Be Deported; Jurors Seek Clarification on More Serious Charge”

New Yorker: “The Story of a Suicide”

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