Jury selection begins today for trial of a student who viewed US student Tyler Clementi’s gay acts with another man over a webcam days before his suicide.
Clementi, who had come out to his family shortly before leaving for college, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010, three days after the first incident occurred.
He had requested the room he and Ravi shared to himself one evening.
Dharun Ravi and another student, Molly Wei, watched Clementi kissing another man via a webcan stream between Ravi’s computer and a computer in Wei’s room.
Ravi, now aged 19, allegedly attempted to view Clementi again when he asked for the room to himself a second time.
Ravi was charged on 15 counts including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering and evidence tampering.
Wei made an agreement last year that charges would be dropped against her if she agreed to testify against Ravi.
ABC reports that Ravi faces 10 years in prison. His lawyers rejected a plea bargain in December 2011, insisting Ravi’s innocence.
After Ravi and Wei viewed Clementi on the webcam on 19 September, Ravi tweeted: “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.”
Clementi wrote afterwards that Ravi was a “pretty decent” room-mate overall but his messages to friends were inconsistent and he went on to report the incident to officials at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
On 21 September he invited the man he had been kissing in the 19 September incident back to his room and asked Ravi if he would vacate it. Ravi reportedly then tweeted about Clementi’s plans twice. Ravi said he dismantled the webcam.
Ravi apparently texted Clementi on the day of his suicide, saying: “I’ve known you were gay and I have no problem with it. 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, it’s adding to my guilt. You have a right to move if you wish but I don’t want you to feel pressured to without fully understanding the situation.”
Clementi’s death is being treated as legally irrelevant to the charges Ravi faces on the webcam incidents.
Jury selection has begun today, the trial continues.