A New Jersey jury today found former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi guilty on all counts for using a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, having a gay sexual encounter in 2010.
Ravi, 20, was convicted of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering and hindering arrest, stemming from his role in activating the webcam to peek at Clementi's date with a man in the dorm room on Sept. 19, 2010. Ravi was also convicted of encouraging others to spy during a second date, on Sept. 21, 2010, and intimidating Clementi for being gay.
Ravi was found not guilty of some subparts of the 15 counts of bias intimidation, attempted invasion of privacy, and attempted bias intimidation, but needed only to be found guilty of one part of each count to be convicted.
The convictions carry a possible sentence of five to 10 years in prison. Because Ravi is a citizen of India, and is in the US on a green card, he could be deported following his sentencing. The US deports most criminals convicted of felonies, with the exception of thefts of amounts under $10,000.
Clementi's mother, who sat with her husband and sons in the front row for the duration of the three-week trial, broke down in tears as the first "guilty" verdicts were read. Clementi's father took notes throughout the reading of the verdicts.
Ravi's attorney, Steven Altman, put his arm around Ravi's shoulder shortly before the verdict. Ravi showed little reaction as the jury read out the verdicts to his crimes.
Clementi's case gained national attention when he committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge Sept. 22, 2010. Ravi is not charged in connection with Clementi's death.
Throughout the trial, Middlesex County Prosecutor Julie McClure tried to build a case that Ravi spied on Clementi's date because his roommate was gay, and told his friends and Twitter followers to also spy on Clementi, describing his actions as an anti-gay hate crime.
She argued that Clementi was clearly made uncomfortable by Ravi's actions, evidenced in Clementi's request for a room change that he submitted to Rutgers on Sept. 21.
"Three weeks into the semester and (Clementi) finds out that his sexual orientation has been broadcast to the defendant's twitter followers," McClure said. "His private sexual activities have been exposed. What do you think he's thinking? 'If Molly saw it, did Cassie see it? Did people in the hall see it? Did people in Davidson C see it?' You don't think that he was intimidated by learning that information? Fearful, embarrassed? He'd been exposed."
Ravi's defense attorney, Steven Altman, dismissed suggestions that his client was anti-gay or targeting Clementi. He claimed that Ravi was curious and immature, but not malicious, when he decided to activate the webcam on Sept. 19.
"Why we're here is because on Sept. 19, and Sept. 21, 2010, an 18-year-old boy, a kid, a college freshman, had an experience, had an encounter that he wasn't ready for," Altman told the jury, claiming that Ravi reacted "immaturely" to what he saw on the screen.
Altman argued that Ravi only activated the webcam to keep an eye on his belongings while an older "creepy" stranger was in the room, and that Ravi's messages on Twitter and to his friends about the spying were just immature joking.