Tag Archive | "Dharun Ravi"

20-Day Jail Term Ends for Ex-Rutgers Student Convicted in Hate Crime

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NORTH BRUNSWICK, NEW JERSEY – The former Rutgers University student convicted of using his Web cam to spy on his roommate having sex with another man, left jail last week, less than three weeks after he began a 30-day jail sentence.

Dharun Ravi, 20, became something of a national antiposter boy for bullying not long after beginning his freshman year at Rutgers in fall 2010. Just a few weeks after school began, the freshman set up a Web cam to spy on Tyler Clementi, his roommate, who requesting their shared room so he could host a date.

Clementi, 19, killed himself days later, after learning that Ravi had invited others to watch the two men engaging in sex. Ravi was convicted in March of 15 criminal charges, some of which carried penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment.

Because Ravi was not charged in Clementi’s death, Judge Glenn Berman of Superior Court sentenced him to 30 days in jail, three years of probation, 300 hours of community service, and fined him $10,000, which is to be paid to a fund that helps victims of bias crimes. Last week, federal immigration officials announced they will not seek to deport Ravi to his native country, India.

Convicted Rutgers Student Apologizes for Spying on Tyler Clementi

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The former Rutgers University student convicted in the suicide of his late roommate, Tyler Clementi—who jumped off the George Washington Bridge in 2010—has apologized for what he called “stupid” and “insensitive” actions on his part towards Clementi. On Tuesday, Dharun Ravi said that he would surrender to authorities today, and will begin his 30-day prison sentence for the conviction. Prosecutors have appealed the court’s light sentence of Ravi, 20, who was convicted of hate crimes for using a Web cam to spy on Clementi’s intimate encounter with another man in their dorm room. The teen took his own life, just days after he learned of Ravi’s actions. “My behavior and actions, which at no time were motivated by hate, bigotry, prejudice or desire to hurt, humiliate or embarrass anyone, were nonetheless the wrong choices and decisions,” wrote Ravi. “I apologize to everyone affected by those choices.”

30-Day Sentence for Rutgers Webcam Suicide Defendant

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ —On Monday, Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student whose roommate committed suicide after learning that Ravi had used a Webcam to spy upon his encounter with another gay man, was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Ravi, 20, a legal resident of the U.S. born in India, was convicted on March 15 of 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy, which is considered a hate crime in New Jersey. The case, which began with 18-yearold Tyler Clementi’s September 2010 leap off the George Washington Bridge, raised national awareness about the suicides of gay teenagers who have been subjected to bullying, and focused LGBT advocates and opponents alike on the law’s application of hate crimes statutes.

Judge Glenn Berman spent several minutes admonishing Ravi for the behavior he had exhibited towards Clementi. “You lied to your roommate who placed his trust in you without any conditions, and you violated it,” Berman said. “I haven’t heard you apologize once.” The judge’s verbal workingover of Ravi made the relatively light sentence all the more surprising when it was announced. Prosecutors were shocked at the sentence, and say they will appeal.


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The jury’s verdict last Friday in State of New Jersey vs. Dharun Ravi was foundational in many important ways, and gave me reason, for a change, to be grateful for the rational system of jury trials that was established under our Constitution. Having lived through the 1995 O.J. Simpson verdict, I know that this isn’t always a sure thing.

Having spent much of the past three weeks thinking my way through this case from all sides, my conclusion is that the right decision was handed down by a panel of honest citizens who, to their eternal credit, agonized over the ultimate fate of an emotionally-tortured Tyler Clementi.

Clementi was a mere 18 years old when he decided on his own that life was so not-worth-living that he would deprive his parents, family, and people who cared about him the privilege of knowing what kind of man he would grow up to become.

But the jury’s decision will resonate forever on the way in which we as a society look at bullying. These honorable men and women had to weigh the horrible consequences of Clementi’s roommate’s boorish, churlish, seemingly-incorrigible teenaged behavior with the type of man he, too, will ultimately become.

Dharun Ravi is by accounts not a bad kid, just one who is endowed with a casual homophobia that is to be heard in high school and college locker rooms as often, frankly, as it is to be heard on the streets and in the taverns of South Florida’s own gay village. “Oh my God, did you see who ‘she’ took home last night,” is a familiar refrain that may be heard to be regurgitated from one end of the Drive to the other end of Dixie on any given. Not all churlish, boorish behavior originates with the straights.

Ravi’s behavior has been chronicled so often that I need not recount his demonization of a gay roommate’s intimate encounter with a trick the latter had met online. “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with another dude. Yay,” he tweeted, and then again later, “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and 12. Yes it’s happening again.” Someone, somehow, had a problem with the gays.

Whatever was going through Clementi’s tortured psyche at the moment he posted on Facebook, “Jumping off the gw [George Washington] bridge sorry,” we know the end result.

Time stamps show that Clementi posted his suicide note at 8:42 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2010, four minutes before Ravi sent a 266-word apology to Clementi, at 8:46 p.m. It read in part: “I want to explain what happened Sunday night when you requested to have someone over. I didn’t realize you wanted the room in private.” Ravi attests to a lack of homophobia and a tolerance for Clementi’s sexuality: “I’ve known you were gay and I have no problem with it,” he texted Clementi. “In fact one of my closest friends is gay and he and I have a very open relationship. I just suspected you were shy about it which is why I never broached the topic. I don’t want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding, its adding to my guilt.”

We don’t know if Clementi ever read Ravi’s apology, or whether it would have had—or did in fact have—any effect on the tragedy to come. We do know that Ravi, who was 18 years old at the time, was acting like any teen I’ve ever met when he deleted 86 text messages he had sent to his high school friends in the days after Clementi’s suicide, clearly an attempt to cover his tracks.

As the jury found, “boys will be boys” (and “girls will be girls”) is no longer a legal justification for inflicting mental harm and infringing upon someone’s privacy because of whom they identity as. This is foundational, and will resonate, Butterfly Effect-like, in schoolyards and in classrooms— secular and religious—until they turn the lights out.

My boyfriend has a much younger, younger brother. By the time he turns the age I now am, I will have been playing pinochle with John Adams, Dorothy Parker, and Liberace for at least half a decade. His children— regardless of whether he turns out gay or straight—will have no concept of the degree of bullying with which men of a certain age or even younger had to contend. That is seminal.

“The embarrassment of ridicule is always painful. The sting is greater when someone you hold close inflicts it. Shouldn’t the consequences be unforgiving?” asked Dean Trantalis, a local attorney and gay rights activist and advocate following the verdict.

The estimable former Vice Mayor of Fort Lauderdale was echoing the sentiments of numerous Americans, LGBT and straight, who see this as an object lesson to bullies and victims everywhere, but most especially in a nation where the rule of law prevails, rather than the rule of men, and I agree.

But Dharun Ravi, now 20 and by the reckoning of our base-10 numbering system very much a teenager, deserves, if not our sympathy, then certainly a chance at his life. He may yet turn it into something that honors what Clementi, his first victim, may have become. There are two victims of the teenaged Dharun Ravi’s bad, bad judgment. I hope the judge recommends deportation.


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Dharun Ravi Case Could Set Electronic Privacy Precedent


NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — On March 16, a jury convicted a former Rutgers University student who used his Webcam to spy on his college roommate Tyler Clementi’s intimate encounter with another man. Dharun Ravi, 20, was convicted of all 15 counts including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy, which is considered a sex crime in New Jersey. Yet, to members of the jury, the impact of Clementi’s own Twitter notes and on-line behavior presented the most damning evidence in the case.

“It was pretty hard to think about Tyler, because he wasn’t present to give his thoughts,” juror Kashad Leverett, 20, said after the trial. Quoted in the New York Times, Leverett added, “..in the evidence that was provided, it showed that he believed he was being intimidated because of his sexual orientation.”

The trial sent a cautionary message to all those who use Twitter and other social media sites that there are consequences, sometimes dire ones, in the use of technology. “This should be a cautionary tale for a lot of people….You often don’t think that what you’re doing could lead to criminal prosecution,” said Eric Nemecek, co-chair of the AmericanBar Association’s Criminal Justice Cybercrime Committee, reported in USA Today.

This case could set a precedent, impacting constitutional rights to privacy. “[People] aren’t going to be exempt from liability just because they are hiding behind a Twitter handle,” according to John Verdi of the Electronic Public Information Center.

“While the law was used appropriately in this particular case, we must be careful—as a society—to not give the government broad power to censor filming of individuals or events,” he said. “Any such laws have the potential to be misused by the government to squelch discourse on matters of public concern.” Ravi—who was 18 years old at the time–set up a Web camera on Sept. 19, 2010, after his roommate, Tyler Clementi, requested privacy in their room for several hours that night. Unbeknownst to Clementi at the time, Ravi and a female friend had watched the encounter.

Ravi then posted on Twitter: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with another dude. Yay [sic].” Subsequently, Ravi sent Twitter and text messages to encourage others to watch. Clementi, 18, jumped from the George Washington Bridge three days after the Webcam viewing, on Sept. 22, 2010–barely three weeks into the men’s freshman year. During the trial, Clementi’s death was only mentioned in passing, but his suicide was the central, defining issue of the proceeding, altering what might have been—in the words of the dormitory’s resident assistant—“a roommate issue,” or at worst, a peeping Tom case, into something with far more ruinous consequences for both men.

Judge Glenn Berman took more than an hour to instruct jurors on the criteria to render a verdict. Following 13 days of testimony spread over a three-week period, the jury, which consisted of seven women and five men, deliberated for 13 hours before finding Ravi guilty of all charges.

Over the 13 days of testimony, prosecutors pointed to Clementi’s checking Ravi’s Twitter feed 38 times after he learned of his roommate’s first Webcam viewing on Sept. 19, 2010. Following that first incident, Ravi told others that he had witnessed Clementi “kissing a dude.” The dorm’s resident assistant testified that Clementi had complained to him about Ravi’s conduct, and computer records show that Clementi had gone online to request a room reassignment.

The jurors found Ravi guilty of bias intimidation because Clementi “reasonably believed” he was made a target because of his sexuality. He was likewise found guilty of lying to investigators, trying to influence a witness, and tampering with evidence after attempting to cover up his text and Twitter messages inviting others to watch.

Some of the counts again Ravi mandate a 5 to 10 year prison sentence. Ravi, who is originally from India, has surrendered his passport. He faces possible deportation to his native country, a decision that will be made by immigration officials. Ravi’s criminal sentencing has been scheduled for May 21. From the outset, the case has been seen as having the potential to redefine how society views hate crimes and the proper way to punish bullying behavior. Some legal experts and Ravi’s own attorneys argued that the trial was an attempt to criminalize bad teenaged behavior.

Middlesex County, New Jersey prosecutor Bruce Kaplan told reporters that the trial sent a strong message against bullying and in support of victims. “They felt the pain of Tyler,” Kaplan said of the jurors. Ravi had rejected plea deals, because his lawyers said he did not believe he had committed a hate crime, for which a plea would have required his admission. They argued that Ravi was “a kid” with little personal experience of gay people.

Almost none of the facts in the case were disputed. The defense stipulated to the prosecution’s contention that Ravi had set up a Web cam, and had viewed Clementi kissing a man whom he had met weeks earlier on a gay dating Web site.

Electronic evidence had established an enormous chain of damning evidence: dining hall swipe card and cellphone records, Twitter feeds, dorm surveillance cameras, and a “net flow analysis” that recreated the connections between various computers in the dormitory. His lawyers also acknowledged that Ravi sent messages via text and Twitter that enjoined others to watch Clementi and his male visitor two nights after the first encounter, and deleted those messages after Clementi’s suicide.

In the end, the jury decided that “boys will be boys” was an inadequate defense. One juror, Bruno Ferreira, told reporters after the verdict was read that he had voted guilty on the charge of bias intimidation because of Ravi’s multiple-tweet harassment of Clementi. “They were being done twice, not just one day,” Ferreira said.

Following the verdict, Tyler’s father, Joe Clementi, who attended the trial every day with his wife, Jane, described the “painful” experience of listening for three weeks to the “bad and inappropriate things that were done to their child.”

To teenagers everywhere, Joe Clementi offered words of tolerance, encouragement, and warning: “You’re going to meet a lot of people in your lifetime. Some of these people you may not like. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you have to work against them. When you see somebody doing something wrong, tell them: ‘That’s not right. Stop it.’ The change you want to see in the world begins with you.”

Jury Deliberations Begin in Rutgers Webcam Suicide Case

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Defense attorneys rested on Monday in the case that has drawn international attention to the tragic consequences of cyber bullying.

Dharun Ravi–the former Rutgers University freshman whose roommate committed suicide after he learned that Webcam footage of an intimate encounter between himself and another gay man had been made public—told the judge that he would not testify and relate his version of events that led to the suicide of Tyler Clementi.

Judge Glenn Berman asked Ravi, 20, if he had decided himself not to take the stand. “Yes, it’s my decision,” Ravi replied in the longest strings of words he has used since the trial began three weeks ago.

Although Ravi is not charged in Clementi’s death, he faces charges of bias intimidation, hindering apprehension, tampering with evidence and with a witness, as well as invasion of privacy, which in New Jersey is considered a sex crime.

According to court documents, Ravi— who was 18 years old at the time–set up a Web camera on Sept. 19, 2010, after Clementi, 18, requested privacy in the room for several hours that night. Two weeks ago, one of Ravi’s friends testified that she and the defendant had watched the encounter briefly. Ravi then posted on Twitter: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with another dude. Yay [sic].”

Another friend gave testimony that Ravi, a native of India, had asked for assistance to angle the camera to face Clementi’s bed. Ravi then posted a Twitter message to encourage people to watch after his roommate requested their room two nights later. After reading Ravi’s tweet, Clementi disconnected the Web camera before his guest arrived.

The prosecution argued that Ravi altered or erased his tweets and text messages in an effort to cover his tracks, and that he attempted to influence the court testimony of the friend—referred to in his first tweet as “Molly” [sic]–who viewed Clementi’s first encounter with his guest, who was named in court recorded by the initials “M.B.” Molly gave testimony for prosecutors in return for a more lenient sentence that will include sensitivity training.

During the trial, expert witnesses testified that Clementi checked Ravi’s Twitter feed over three dozen times in the two days before he committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge. M.B. testified that Clementi seemed very distracted and upset at one point after checking for tweets.

Attorneys for both sides made their closing statements on Tuesday. Jurors must decide whether Ravi intentionally intimidated Mr. Clementi because he was gay, and whether Clementi would have reasonably felt intimidated by Ravi’s actions. Ravi’s lawyers introduced several witnesses who testified that he was not biased against gay people.

Rutgers Suicide Case, Defendant to Victim: “Don’t Ruin Your Freshman Year” Suicide Victim’s ‘Trick’ Noticed Webcam

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By Cliff Dunn

The man who reportedly engaged in intimate contact with a Rutgers University student who subsequently killed himself–after footage of the encounter was made public–gave a sworn account last week in which he testified having noticed a Webcam pointed in their direction during their encounter. The student, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide in September 2010.

“I had just glanced over my shoulder and I noticed there was a webcam that was faced toward the direction of the bed,” the man, who has been identified only by the initials “M.B.,” testified. “It just struck me as strange, that if you were sitting at a desk, that the camera would be pointed that way.”

“Just being in a compromising position and seeing a camera lens – it just stuck out to me.’’ M.B. also recalled not seeing an activated indicator light denoting that the cam was turned on. His testimony was the most anticipated in the trial of Dharun Ravi, Clementi’s roommate, who is charged with bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, and other crimes.

Ravi is not charged in connection with Clementi’s death.

M.B., the prosecution’s star witness, testified that he and Clementi, 18, first met in August 2010 via a gay men’s social networking site. The man, who said he was 30 years old at the time, met Clementi in the latter’s Rutgers’ dorm room on Sept. 17, two days before the alleged Webcam spying occurred.

The media was ordered by the judge to neither photograph nor record via audio or video any part of M.B.’s testimony. The man’s attorney successfully fought legal efforts to identify M.B., on the grounds that’s he may be the victim of an alleged sex crime, which New Jersey classifies invasion of privacy. M.B.’s real name was given to the jurors in order to make sure none of them knew him personally.

Although M.B.’s testimony carried both emotional and anecdotal weight, it did little to bring to light the reasons Tyler Clementi may have killed himself. In text messages between Clementi and M.B.—who was listed as “Mike Nice” in the former’s cellphone address book—the Rutgers students projects the image of an emotionally-engaged and newly infatuated teenager.

The attorney for M.B., Richard Pompelio, spoke with reporters during a break in testimony. Pompelio said he doesn’t believe that M.B. is married and doesn’t know if his client is out as a gay man. “He’s a fine young man who came here under horrible circumstances to tell the truth,” said Pompelio.

M.B. testified that he lived approximately 20 minutes from Clementi and Rutgers. He said that he and Clementi met a total of three times in the latter’s dorm room. The shortest of their dates lasted for approximately 45 minutes, while the longest took place for about two hours. The first encounter took place on Sept. 17, when Ravi was not expected until late at night, M.B. recollected. The man said in court that he left Clementi long before Ravi’s return. “I made sure to leave well before 2 a.m. as to not cause any conflict,’’ he recounted.

The second meeting took place on Sept. 19, the date of the alleged Webcam incident. On that evening, Ravi posted on Twitter: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with another dude. Yay [sic].”

In court, M.B. testified that about a half dozen students were in the vicinity as he left the dormitory that night. “There were no thoughts that somebody might be watching me,” he said under oath. “If I saw a light on [the Webcam], maybe I would have brought it up. There was no light on,” M.B. insisted.

In order to prove the criminal charges of bias intimidation, prosecutors must prove that Ravi intimidated Clementi specifically because he was gay. That charge has been refuted by several of the prosecution’s own witnesses.

Even the fact that M.B. was not aware that the Webcam had been activated for a few seconds—or was even capable of being activated– and that he was unaware of the roommate’s Twitter messages about the romantic encounters will make it difficult for prosecutors to attribute intimidation to Ravi’s motives.
Last week, prosecutors presented several witnesses who confirmed that they had seen Clementi and M.B. kissing that night via Ravi’s Webcam feed.

Clementi and M.B. met for the third and final time on Sept. 21 in Clementi’s dorm room. M.B. testified that he had heard voices through the window, “talking in the courtyard–people joking, people laughing. It seemed like the jokes were at somebody else’s expense.”

Because of hearsay rules, the judge would not permit M.B. to describe how Clementi’s reaction to the derisive laughter. And since M.B. did not look out the dorm room window (thus preventing him from identifying the individuals who were laughing) and could not testify to the content of the jokes, his testimony cannot link Ravi to the charges of bias intimidation.
The defense has portrayed Ravi as insensitive, but not biased against Clementi’s sexuality. His attorneys are painting a picture of the normal social awkwardness associated with the freshman experience between two unfamiliar roommates.

Ravi, a native of India, was an outgoing, Ultimate Frisbee-playing techie from an upper middle class suburb of Princeton. Clementi, an accomplished violinist, was socially awkward and had only recently come out to his parents.

Friends of the defendant confirmed that he had set up the Webcam in his and Clementi’s room, and that Ravi appeared to be “uncomfortable” about being assigned a gay roommate. After Clementi and M.B.’s initial encounter, Ravi allegedly utilized a friend’s computer to test his own Webcam, in order to capture a better angle on Clementi’s bed in the hours before the gay teen brought his male guest over a second time.

Lokesh Ojha, another student residing in the same dormitory, testified that Ravi approached him for assistance. “He wanted to use my computer,” Ojha recalled during testimony. “He picked my iChat and he clicked his video and a video of his room came up.” According to Ojha, Ravi “went to his room and he told me to check the angle on his webcam.”

“I went to the computer and he went to his room and he turned his computer screen, and I gave him a ‘thumbs up’ that it was okay,” Ojha recalled. On Sept. 21, two days after M.B.’s second date with Clementi, Ravi sent another Twitter post: “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it’s happening again.” Students testified that when Clementi learned of Ravi’s Webcam plan, he disconnected it.

In cross-examination, the defense grilled M.B. as to the reasons he and Clementi chose to meet in the latter’s dorm room, rather than a more public location, and why M.B. hadn’t spent the night. “I didn’t want to cause any type of conflict between [the roommates],” M.B. offered. “I left happy. He was happy,” he described his last encounter
with Clementi.

At approximately 8:42 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2010, Clementi posted on Facebook: “Going to jump off the gw bridge sorry.” Authorities say that later that evening, Clementi committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge.

M.B. testified that when he did not hear from the Rutgers student, he sent text messages to Clementi “twice a day every day.” He learned of the teen’s death after reading a print account of his suicide. “I didn’t know it until I picked up a newspaper,” M.B. said.

Court records indicate that shortly after Clementi’s final Facebook update, at around 8:46 p.m., Ravi texted his roommate to offer an explanation for the Webcam feed and an apology. Minutes later, at 8:56 p.m., Ravi sent a final text to Clementi: “I’ve known you were gay and I have no problem with it,” it read. “I don’t want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding, its adding to my guilt. You have the right to move if you wish but don’t want you to feel pressured to without fully under-standing the situation.”

Jury Empanelled In Rutgers Webcam Suicide Case

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By Cliff Dunn

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ- Jury selection finished last week in the trial of Dharun Ravi. The former Rutgers University student is charged with secretly viewing his dormitory roommate’s sexual encounter with another man via a hidden webcam.

“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 [sic],” Ravi posted on Twitter. Ravi’s roommate, Tyler Clementi, 18, committed suicide just days after he learned of the Sept. 19, 2010 incident. Clementi’s death is not among the 15 criminal charges the jurors will hear, but the events surrounding it are central to prosecutors’ case. LGBT rights advocates say the case underscores the tragedy of cyber-bullying as well the continuing biases suffered by LGBT persons.

Ravi, who turned 20 on Tuesday, is charged with bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, evidence and witness tampering, and other counts. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on two of the bias offenses, which are treated as hate crimes.

Ravi also faces deportation: a legal immigrant, he was born in India and came to the U.S. when he was a child. In December, Ravi rejected a plea-bargain offer that would have resulted in no jail time and six months’ probation. Part of the plea deal he rejected was a promise by prosecutors to assist him with immigration officials should they attempt to deport him because of the guilty plea. Ravi’s attorney, Steven Altman, argued that his client engaged in an ill-advised college prank and is guilty of poor judgment at best, but that Clementi’s sexual orientation played no part in the incident and that he never intended to intimidate or harass Clementi. “He’s not guilty,” Altman told reporters when asked why Ravi turned down the highly favorable plea deal.

Ravi met Clementi at Rutgers in August 2010 when they both began their freshman year and were assigned to the same dorm room. Court documents indicate that Ravi had learned about Clementi’s sexuality before the start of school, and had made snide references to it in emails to friends. Prosecutors say that Ravi set up his webcam to spy on Clementi on the night of Sept. 19, 2010, after Clementi asked for privacy, with the likely intention of entertaining a visitor. Ravi claims the iChat webcam on his laptop was turned on because of concerns he had for his personal possessions. Court documents say that Ravi went to the dorm room of Molly Wei, a student who lived across the hall. The two used a computer to connect to Ravi’s webcam in the room he shared with Clementi.

Wei, 20, told a grand jury that she and Ravi watched the webcam while Clementi and another man engaged in intimate contact. She said that later that night she and women from the dorm watched Clementi and a man identified as “M.B.” embracing and partially-clothed. Wei says that both encounters were viewed for just a few seconds. Wei, who was also a freshman at the time, has been charged with invasion of privacy. She dropped out of Rutgers shortly after her arrest in October 2010, and has agreed to cooperate with authorities. Prosecutors also cite as evidence e-mails, tweets, and texts in which Ravi made fun of Clementi, joked about the incident, and invited friends to watch a live webcam stream on Sept. 21, when Clementi again asked for privacy.

Emails to friends indicate that Clementi was aware of the first incident, and that he shut off Ravi’s computer. Ravi has told investigators that he disabled the webcam and had no intention of viewing the second encounter. In a Sept. 22 email to the dormitory resident adviser, Clementi requested a room reassignment. Clementi wrote, “I feel that my privacy has been violated,” and that Ravi had acted in a “wildly inappropriate manner.” Later that day, at some time between 8 and 9 p.m., Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

The victim’s state of mind might factor into the jury’s deliberations concerning the bias intimidation counts. Ravi’s attorneys noted in pretrial filings that Clementi had come out to his parents a few weeks before his suicide. At that time, Clementi wrote to a friend, “Mom has basically rejected me.” That is expected to play into the defense’s picture of Clementi as a confused teen who was struggling with issues of identity and other emotional problems. Joseph and Jane Clementi, Tyler’s parents, have formed a foundation in the teen’s memory to offer grants to organizations engaged in bullying and suicide prevention, as well as programs that focus on gay teens. Clementi’s parents have said that Ravi should be held accountable for his actions, but have asked for leniency in the  punishment he receives.

National News Briefs 2/23/2012

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Obama Administration, Justice Department Support Equal Benefits for Gay Armed Forces Couples 

The Obama administration announced last week that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of laws that prevent samesex spouses in the U.S. armed services from receiving marriage benefits, including such rights as survivor benefits, burial in military cemeteries, and military hospital visitations. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., in a letter to the Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), announced that the Justice Department believes, like the plaintiffs in a Massachusetts suit contesting these laws, that they are unconstitutional. The statutes also include those that govern veterans’ benefits and portions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“The legislative record of these provisions contains no rationale for providing veterans’ benefits to opposite-sex spouses of veterans but not to legally married same-sex spouses of veterans,” the attorney general wrote. “Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs identified any justifications for that distinction that could warrant treating these provisions differently from” DOMA. Last year, Holder announced that the Obama administration will no longer defend portions of DOMA that ban federal recognition of marriage equality that are recognized at the state level. Boehner and Republican leaders criticized the action, saying that the Justice Department has a responsibility to defend federal laws.

Outed AZ “Border Hawk” Sheriff Resigns from Romney Camp

FLORENCE, AZ – Pinal County (Arizona) Sheriff Paul Babeu resigned this week from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s state campaign committee amid allegations of misconduct made against the sheriff by a man with whom he formerly had a relationship. At a press conference on Saturday, Babeu promised to continue his own campaign for the GOP nomination in Arizona’s 4th Congressional District. He denied allegations that he had threatened the man—known only as “Jose”–a former campaign volunteer and immigrant, with deportation if the details of their past relationship were revealed. “I’m here to say that all the allegations…were untrue–except for the instance that refers to me as gay,” Babeu stated. “That’s the truth– I am gay.”

The state’s 4th Congressional District is comprised primarily of conservative Republican voters. The unmarried Babeu, a first-term sheriff, gained national attention because of his strong opposition to illegal immigration. He is locked in a three-way primary race for the congressional seat, and said the accusations are an attempt to hurt his political career. Babeu told the threedozen uniformed officers who were present on Saturday that his relationship with Jose ended sometime before September, and that the man, who ran his campaign website and Twitter account, posted derogatory information online beginning after their breakup.

Whitney Houston Scheduled to Promote Anti-Bullying Campaign on Night of Her Death

On the night of her death last week, Whitney Houston was scheduled to take part in an antibullying campaign that hopes to end homophobic abuse with the assistance of celebrities.

US Weekly reported this week that the late performer was due to be photographed on the night of Feb. 10 for the “Stop Bullying Now: Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil” campaign. Houston gave the campaign permission for her image to be used. The campaign’s mission is to end bullying based on color, sexual orientation, and weight, with the help of celebrity endorsement.

“Stop Bullying Now” is run by Houston’s friend, entertainment consultant Raffles van Exel. In a press release to announce the campaign, van Exel recently wrote “We, as celebrities, have a unique opportunity to show children and teenagers that WE DO CARE, and that THEY have the POWER to stand up for themselves.”

Gay Combat Vet. Dan Choi Joins ‘Occupy’

Former Iraq War veteran Dan Choi, whose coming-out pronouncement helped end the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, attended an “Occupy Delaware” event this week, praising the movement’s members and offering a poem of his own composition to encourage protesters to continue their fight for inclusiveness.

Addressing participants at the “Tent-Raising and Rally” on Saturday, Choi, a former U.S. Army lieutenant who was discharged after he announced he is gay, said: “On this very special day, I wrote a poem- -about tents. So, this is an ode to our tent.” He then read to the approximately 100 people assembled: “Tents usually keep heat inside. But our fire has spread all around this country. A tent is usually a place where we can hide. But what we are doing in these tents is exposing the reality of our country and our economy.”

Jury Selection Begins in NJ Webcam Suicide Case

Jury selection began this week in the trial of a former Rutgers University student who is charged with employing a webcam to spy on his gay roommate’s intimate encounter with another man. The trial could reveal some heretofore unknown facts, including the name of the unidentified man in the video. The roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide in 2010, just days after the alleged spying occurred.

Dharun Ravi, the suspect, is not charged with the death of Clementi, 20. Instead, Ravi is charged with bias intimidation, a hate crime that is punishable by 10 years in prison. Ravi, 19, is also charged with invasion of privacy, as well as tampering with evidence and witness tampering. That doesn’t mean the suicide won’t be on the minds of jurors: trial Judge Glenn Berman told prospective jurors last week that Clementi had killed himself.

The other man depicted in the video—who has been publicly identified only as “M.B.”—may be brought to testify, which could become key to conviction or exoneration. Attorneys for both sides argued over publicly identifying “M.B,” with Judge Berman eventually ruling that lawyers for Ravi could, indeed, reveal his identity. Should the man testify, it is expected that his full name will be used.

The crime with which Ravi is charged occurred in September 2010, a few weeks after Clementi and Ravi, newlyassigned roommates, moved into their dorm room at Rutgers.

Clementi is alleged to have asked Ravi to leave their dorm room so that Clementi could have privacy when a friend of his stopped over to their room. Investigators say that Ravi used his computer’s webcam to spy on Clementi. Ravi posted a Twitter message: “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 [sic].”

Two nights later, authorities allege that Ravi attempted to do the same thing when Clementi asked him to stay away from the room. The next day, Clementi killed himself. He jumped from the George Washington Bridge, after writing a short Facebook status update: “Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry.”

Judge Rules Name of Tyler Clementi’s Companion Must Be Revealed

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PISCATAWAY, NJ – A New Brunswick court has ruled that the name and birth date of the previously unidentified man seen kissing Tyler Clementi on a webcam last year must be revealed to the student accused of spying on the pair in a Rutgers University dorm room.

He has previously been known only by the initials “M.B.”

Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman ordered prosecutors to turn over M.B.’s identity to Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers student facing up to 10 years in prison for allegedly using a webcam to spy on the unnamed man and Clementi in his dorm room.

Ravi, 19, is accused of remotely turning on his laptop’s webcam on September 19, 2010, a few weeks after he began
rooming with Clementi on Rutgers’ Piscataway campus. Ravi later used his Twitter account to tell friends he saw his roommate “making out with a dude.”

Clementi filed a complaint with Rutgers officials on September 22, 2010, after learning about the webcam. He committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge later that day. The 18-year-old freshman’s death prompted a national outrage about gay suicide and cyber bullying. Before he died, Clementi told friends his companion, M.B., was in his 20s and not comfortable with others knowing he is gay.

The judge said he had to balance M.B.’s right to privacy and Ravi’s right to a defense.

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