Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Dharun Ravi, Clementi’s Spying Roommate Found Guilty of Anti-Gay Intimidation

Dharun Ravi (l), found guilty of cyber-spying and bias intimidation against his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi (r).

New Brunswick, New Jersey – Dharun Ravi was found guilty today on the vast majority of counts for spying on his Rutgers roommate’s gay intimacies in 2010.  ABC News reports that Ravi remained emotionless as the jury brought back its verdict in one of the most closely watched anti-bullying trials in United States history.  He was found guilty of  invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest due to his actions setting up a spy-cam to record a gay tryst between his freshman roommate, Tyler Clementi, and a same-sex lover on September 19, 2010.  Ravi was also found guilty of prompting others to spy on Clementi during a second tryst on September 21, 2010, and of intimidating his roommate for being gay.  He 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. Ravi, who is 20, could face a sentence of five to ten years for his crimes.  Because he is a citizen of India in the United States on a Green Card, he could also face deportation.

Behind the proceedings, the suicide of Tyler Clementi loomed like a dark cloud.  Clementi was distressed when he found out that he had been videoed in his own room and exposed for being gay. His death by drowning after leaping from the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010, and the connections between his suicide and Ravi’s use of the spy-cam to invade his privacy and intimidate him for his sexual orientation made international news.  Clementi’s death, one of a long list of gay intimidation suicides, burst on the national scene with long-delayed urgency, calling attention to the loss of so many young lives to school and university brutality and intimidation.

Over the course of the 12-day trial, Ravi’s defense team argued that he was not homophobic in action or intent, and that his actions were those of an immature person who saw a chance to make fun of someone different.  They also argued that Ravi’s use of a spy-cam was to monitor Clementi’s male guest, whom Ravi felt was “sketchy,” according to reports in USA Today.  The jury did not buy the explanation.  As the verdict was read, Ravi’s mother burst into tears, and his father took notes about the particulars of the findings.  Ravi will be sentenced on May 21.

Tyler Clementi’s family spoke briefly at a press conference following the verdict.  They praised the work of the court, and affirmed how important this trial was to them, though they did not refer directly to the verdict or the case.  The family will now be able to return to their Ridgewood, New Jersey home in the knowledge that some justice has finally been done for their shy, musically gifted son.

March 16, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, cyber voyeurism, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Social Justice Advocacy, suicide | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Accused Cyber-Spies Withdraw from University in Tyler Clementi Bullycide Case

Wei, Clementi, and Ravi (CBS picture)

Rutgers University, New Jersey – Two 18-year-old freshman students accused of cyber-spying on Tyler Clementi have withdrawn from University, according to CBS News.  Dharun Ravi and Mollie Wei will not face university disciplinary charges, but must withdraw from school in the wake of the storm of controversy that broke over what many have called the “bullycide” of classmate Clementi.  Mr. Ravi and Ms. Wei are accused of invasion of privacy by allegedly spying on Mr. Clementi during a tryst with another male in a dorm room on the Rutgers University campus, and then posting the event for the world to see on the internet.  Mr. Clementi drove to the George Washington Bridge, and threw himself off into the Hudson River as a consequence.  Mr. Ravi’s lawyer told the press that the university has told his client that he may reapply for admission at a later date, but that in reality Mr. Ravi’s career as a Rutgers student is over.  Commenting on the offer of reapplication for admission to Ms. Wei and his client, Attorney Steven Altman said, “Realistically, they couldn’t go back no matter what. He definitely plans to go somewhere else.”  Ms. Wei’s attorney said that fear for her client’s safety would keep her from seeking readmission to the school.  The New Jersey statute under which Mr. Clementi’s classmates are charged with invasion of privacy makes collection of nude or sexualized images of a person without that person’s consent a fourth-degree crime.  Broadcasting such images is classed as a third-degree crime.  If convicted as charged, both Mr. Ravi and Ms. Wei could face up to five years in prison.  In the cyber age, Americans were supposed to enter a new world of exciting information technology for the advancement of the human race.  What this horrible incident reveals, however, is that the young, who are supposed to be the vanguard of a new and better future, may be technologically savvy, but suffer from a collapse of social and interpersonal boundaries.  The perpetrators of these crimes against Tyler Clementi were toying with human emotions, sexual orientation, and human life.  They were not scooping video news and images for another shabby reality show or a university version of Jack-Ass.  We have also learned that heterosexism and homophobia have not disappeared among the tech-savvy  youth of America, either.  Was what these perpetrators did a hate crime?  Unquestionably, it has had that effect, chilling the atmosphere throughout the nation for a whole segment of the population who are young, LGBTQ, and seeking to survive in a sometimes hostile world.  The attorneys for the defense are busy doing their best to seek advantage for their clients, which includes reducing sympathy for Clementi (or worse).  What must not be lost sight of in this case and in the raft of cyber-intrusion cases to come, is that the breakdown of social boundaries actually kills.  Whatever the outcome in the courts, the Clementi family, Mr. Ravi and Ms. Wei know that shocking lesson all to well.

November 15, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, Bullying in schools, cyber voyeurism, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, invasion of privacy, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Rutgers University, suicide | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cyber-spies’ Lawyers Seek to Soft-Pedal Rutgers Bullying

Newark, New Jersey – The news today reports that lawyers for the the two alleged cyber spies, who trapped Tyler Clementi with a hidden webcam when he was intimate with a same-sex lover, say that the duo really didn’t see anything “sexual” on the night in question.  The lawyers’ point is that their clients were not doing much wrong–that Clementi just took things too far when he jumped off the George Washington Bridge.  I hope the everyone will see what is at stake in this case.  Clementi believed that he had been “outed” in a moment of vulnerability. That is what counted when Clementi was reacting to the smashed future story that had brought him to Rutgers. I am sick of these stories.  Our culture has become more and more tolerant of intolerance, and less and less interested in the youth this society professes to value.  I hope we all will demand zero tolerance for bullying of any kind against anyone.  The gay teen suicide crisis will still be with us as long as school and society cultures tolerate the bullies and place the burden of “normalcy” on LGBTQ youth.  When the news cycle moves on to Election Day and its aftermath, we who believe in justice cannot afford to leave this matter behind.  Every Superintendent of Schools in America needs to hear from us until life-affirming change truly comes, and our children–ALL our children–feel supported and protected in American schools.

Stephen Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

November 1, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, cyber voyeurism, gay men, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Rutgers University | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Cyber-spies’ Lawyers Seek to Soft-Pedal Rutgers Bullying

Gay Student’s Death Sparks Anti-Bullying Legislation in New Jersey

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) speaks at Rutgers Forum Wednesday

New Brunswick, New Jersey – Frank Lautenberg, a Democratic United States Senator from New Jersey, told a forum at Rutgers University on Wednesday that he will introduce anti-bullying legislation to protect vulnerable people, such as LGBTQ youth.  Since gay Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge last month , a broad national discussion has arisen  around the nation about LGBTQ teen suicide and the role school and university bullying play in it.  Clementi, 18, a gifted young violinist who came to Rutgers to join its famed student orchestra, killed himself because he was outed by his roommate on the internet for a gay tryst in their dorm room.  His roommate, Dharun Ravi, 18, of Plainsboro, New Jersey, planted a hidden webcam in the room and switched it on to capture live-stream images of Clementi “making out” with another young man on September 22.  Another freshman, Molly Wei, also 18 and hailing from Princeton, NJ, participated in the cyber voyeurism.  Sources say that Ravi attempted to broadcast another evening of lovemaking on the web the following night.  Ravi and Wei face invasion of privacy charges that would result in five years in prison for each student, if proven guilty.  Wei’s attorneys have filed a “not guilty” plea to the charges, and have recently sent sympathy messages to Clementi’s family.  Senator Lautenberg announced to the crowd of 300 at the Wednesday forum that he would introduce a statute to “fix the problem” of harassment and bullying in schools and colleges.  In a press release from his office, Senator Lautenberg said, “The suicide of Tyler Clementi is a tragic reminder that college dormitories, dining halls and classrooms are not always safe places for students. We need to increase efforts that ensure all students have the opportunity to learn in a safe and secure environment. My legislation will fill a void in federal law and for the first time require colleges to establish plans to protect their students from harassment and bullying.” The proposed legislation would require schools and universities receiving federal money to adhere to a code of conduct prohibiting harassment and bullying, and to establish clear and orderly procedures to respond to allegations of this type of behavior. Such policies are not currently required by federal law, according to the New Jersey Democrat. The bill also would provide funding for schools to establish programs to deter harassment of students. “If you can’t be safe on a college campus, it’s an outrageous, outrageous condition,” Senator Lautenberg said, according to My Central Jersey.  The audience also heard from victims of bullying in the schools, and their parents.  Yahoo News reports that the Clementi family has been quiet throughout this ordeal.  In the one statement they have publicly made, Tyler’s father said they hoped their son’s death would “serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity.”

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, Bullying in schools, cyber voyeurism, gay teens, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Rutgers University, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. Senate | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Student’s Death Sparks Anti-Bullying Legislation in New Jersey

Gay University Freshman Commits Suicide After Privacy Invasion with Hidden Camera

Piscataway, New Jersey – An 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge September 22 after his roommate live-streamed his sex session with another male using a hidden camera.  The New York Daily News reports that Tyler Clementi, a renowned young violinist who had just enrolled at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, left his car on the New Jersey shore, walked to a spot on the George Washington Bridge near the New York side, and plunged to his death in the Hudson River.  His body has not been recovered.  Authorities say that he left a suicide note.  His roommate, Dharun Ravi, 18, posted that Clementi had “asked for the room” at midnight, so Ravi enabled a hidden web cam, went to the room of his high school friend, Molly Wei, and switched on her computer to live-stream Clementi’s tryst.  Wei is also 18 years old.  “I went into Molly’s room and turned on my webcam,” Ravi posted.  “I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”  The Twitter post went out on the internet on September 19, three days before Clementi’s suicide.  Ravi and Wei, both from Asian American extraction and Rutgers freshmen on the Piscataway campus, are charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy under a New Jersey law.  Illegally collecting or viewing images showing sexual contact involving another individual without that individual’s consent in the Garden State is a fourth-degree crime. Transmitting or distributing such images is a third-degree crime. Ravi has also been charged with two more counts of invasion of privacy for his attempt to broadcast another sex session Clementi is alleged to have had on September 21.  Both suspects surrendered peacefully to university police.  Ravi is free on $25,000 bond.  Wei was released on her own recognizance pending prosecution.  The top penalty the two web-voyeurs could receive if found guilty as charged is five years in prison for each count.  Officials of the university are making no comment on the alleged crimes so long as the investigations are proceeding.  Clementi is remembered as a wonderfully gifted musician.  His parents have been devastated, and are making no comment to the press.  Apparently the shock of being outed in such a public and humiliating way led him to such despair that he could not bear to live.  As Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin said, “It’s not just high school kids being bullied and humiliated to their deaths.”

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, cyber voyeurism, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, New York, suicide | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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