A jury has found a New Jersey university student who watched Tyler Clementi kissing another man in their room days before he killed himself guilty of 15 charges.
Dharun Ravi shared a room at Rutgers University with 18-year-old Tyler Clementi in late 2010 for only a few weeks before the latter’s death.
The prosecution did not implicate Ravi in his late room-mate’s death, but he faced over a dozen charges ranging from invasion of privacy to bias intimidation, tampering with evidence and hindering apprehension.
Ravi, now 20, was found guilty of tampering with evidence and witnesses after he tried to alter Twitter and text messages he had sent out encouraging others to join him in spying on Clementi’s gay acts over a webcam.
The three-week trial ended in two days of jury deliberations.
It was accepted by both sides that after Tyler Clementi had asked for the room one evening, Ravi used a webcam to see what he was doing and saw him kissing another man.
Fellow student Molly Wei had been present at the original incident. She made an agreement last year that charges would be dropped against her if she agreed to testify against Ravi.
Ravi had 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.”
He later tweeted that it was “happening again”, inviting others to watch.
Mr Clementi wrote afterwards that he felt Ravi was a “pretty decent” room-mate but his messages to friends were inconsistent and he went on to report the incident to officials at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
He jumped from the George Washington bridge the following day.
Ravi’s lawyers argued that their client had had little experience of homosexuality before starting at university that autumn and that “he wasn’t ready for” what he saw.
They further said the man who Tyler Clementi had brought back to the room was older and had unsettled Ravi.
They alleged that since Mr Clementi brought the man back to the room a second time, he was not experiencing the fear necessary to prove bias intimidation, where an offence is committed with a particular ill will and intention to intimidate a protected group.
ABC quotes Middlesex County Prosecutor Julie McClure saying: “Three weeks into the semester and [Mr Clementi] finds out that his sexual orientation has been broadcast to the defendant’s twitter followers.
“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 had pleaded innocent to the charges, rejecting a plea bargain in December 2011. The charges are punishable by up to 10 years in prison but because Ravi is in the US on a green card, it has been reported that he may face deportation to his native India.