Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi was found guilty of invasion of privacy and a number of bias intimidation counts in the cyberbullying trial that may have led to the suicide of Ravi's gay roommate, Tyler Clementi. The 18 year old Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge in September 2010 after Ravi used a webcam to spy on him during an intimate encounter with another man.
During the trial, prosecutor Julia McClure said Ravi's actions were "purposeful, they were mean-spirited ... malicious, and they were criminal" and intended to humiliate Clementi, the LA Times reported. Ravi's defense lawyer, Steven Altman, told jurors: "Nobody ever broadcast anything. Nobody transmitted anything. Nobody recorded anything. Nobody reproduced any image of anything....Nothing."
Ravi was charged with invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension, tampering with a witness and evidence, and bias intimidation that could result in penalties up to 10 years in prison. Though the jury was clear about the invasion of privacy charges, they found Ravi not guilty on some bias intimidation charges. This is a developing story and will be updated as warranted. Ravi is out on bail and the judge has set sentencing for May 21.
Dharun Ravi found guilty on invasion of privacy in Rutgers spycam case on March 16, 2012 (Screen capture from MSNBC)
The New York Times notes that: "The case became a symbol of the struggles facing gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers and the problem of cyberbullying in an era when laws governing hate crimes have not kept up with evolving technology."
Reaction has been coming in. They're after the break.
Garden State Equality Chair Steven Goldstein issued this statement:
The fundamental question in this trial was whether Dharun Ravi would have similarly invaded the privacy of a roommate having intimate relations with someone of the opposite sex, as Ravi did to Tyler Clementi and M.B.
In our view, the answer is no - that Ravi would not have invaded the privacy of a straight roommate. In fact, the most compelling evidence in the case, Ravi's text messages, indicated exactly that. The text messages demonstrated beyond any doubt that Ravi was deeply uncomfortable with Tyler's being gay, and that Tyler's suitor was a guy.
So are we "happy" with the verdict? "Happy" doesn't seem like the right word given that Ravi has been convicted and will now face the appropriate societal consequences. "Happy" also seems too trivial a word when we remember that Tyler Clementi lost his life. But we do believe this verdict sends the important message that a "kids will be kids" defense is no excuse to bully another student.
Though Tyler Clementi has left us, the rest of Dharun Ravi's life will help tell his life story. Ravi's own lawyer basically portrayed him as a young man who engaged in jerky, insensitive behavior. Ravi can stay that course, or he can some good with his life by making amends and fighting for the justice and dignity of every individual, including people who are LGBT. That much is up to Ravi.
As for all of us, we must continue our focus on building a better world, one free of bullying of every student, so that a tragedy like this never happens again. That's what New Jersey's new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the country's strongest anti-bullying law, is ultimately about.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with Tyler's family and friends.
This from Campus Pride:
Verdict in Rutgers webcam spying case ends trial but will not end daily harassment of LGBT college students
Trial of former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi highlights crucial responsibility of college and university administrators and staff in keeping LGBT students safe on campus
Campus Pride, the leading national non-profit working to make colleges and universities safer and more inclusive for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, today marked the end of the weeks-long trial of former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi by issuing a call for all colleges to heed the lesson Rutgers officials were forced to learn as tragic events unfolded on their campus and to immediately implement the necessary policies, programs and practices to keep their LGBT students safe.
Ravi, accused of using his webcam to spy on his gay roommate Tyler Clementi during a sexual encounter with an unnamed male partner, was found guilty of several counts of invasion of privacy and guilty of several counts of bias intimidation toward Tyler Clementi, among other charges. The case attracted national attention after Clementi died by suicide in September 2010.
During the trial, details regarding Ravi's and Clementi's relationship as roommates and Clementi's request to Rutgers housing officials for a room change underscored the single most important but least talked about issue since Clementi's tragic death two years ago: The responsibility of college administrators, faculty and staff to keep their LGBT students safe.
"Though the trial has ended, there are no verdicts, no words and no sentiments that will ever bring Tyler Clementi back to his friends and to his family," said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride. "Additionally, this trial's conclusion will not end the daily torment and harassment of LGBT students on college and university campuses across the nation.
"College and university professionals have an obligation to recognize the crucial role and responsibility they have in creating safer environments for LGBT students," Windmeyer added. "Tragedies can be averted and lives can be saved when students feel safe and accepted and when universities are proactive in their approach to campus climate and the academic success of all students."
Simple and commonsense steps could have prevented Clementi's suicide. Since his death, Rutgers University has made several steps in bridging the gap between their LGBT students' needs and the campus' offered services, but too many colleges refuse to see the consequences of inaction and remain unsafe for LGBT students.
Of more than 4,000 colleges and universities across the U.S., less than 10 percent have opted to voluntarily assess their campus' policies and practices using the Campus Pride LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index (www.campusprideindex.org). Less than seven percent of schools offer institutional support to LGBT students, such as an LGBT student center or programs director. Only 13 percent offer non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and just six percent protect students on the basis of gender identity. Only one school, Illinois' Elmhurst University, asks students demographic questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on its admissions application.
"The mere presence of an LGBT student organization or LGBT-inclusive policies will not make a campus safer for students," said Windmeyer. "Concrete policy implementation put into immediate practice is necessary - constant work that includes listening to and including the voices of LGBT students and taking decisive and proactive steps to respond to their needs before tragedy occurs, not afterward."
Campus Pride calls on all colleges and universities to take steps now to fully include LGBT students on their campuses and to create safer, more welcoming environments where LGBT students can grow in their academic careers. Programs and policy implementation - such as anti-discrimination policies, safe and inclusive student conduct codes, gender-neutral housing, LGBT living-learning communities, hate-crime and bias-motivated incident response and LGBT-inclusive healthcare - are not optional.
"University administrators, faculty, campus housing staff and other trained professionals are paid to teach and to keep students safe," said Windmeyer. "When professionals fail to do their jobs, students are unable to do theirs - to learn and to grow academically - and tragic incidents of suicide, hazing and bias-motivated violence became an all-too-real possibility. No student should ever live in fear for their own safety or struggle to be comfortable with themselves in the face of harassment."
From Lambda Legal:
Lambda Legal Reacts to Ravi Trial Verdict
"The verdict today demonstrates that the jurors understood that bias crimes do not require physical weapons like a knife in one's hand."
(New York, March 16, 2012) -- In response to the verdict in the Dharun Ravi trial, Lambda Legal issued the following statement from Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg:
"This is a tragic story in which there can be no happy ending. A young gay man took his own life, and other LGBTQ youth still live in a culture where they are too often made to feel fear and shame for simply being themselves. This case has focused the nation on how critical it is that we ensure every young person can feel safe and proud.
"Hate crime laws are public statements that our government and our society recognize the deep wounds inflicted when violence is motivated by prejudice and hate. The actions of Dharun Ravi were inexcusable and surely added to Tyler Clementi's vulnerability and pain. The verdict today demonstrates that the jurors understood that bias crimes do not require physical weapons like a knife in one's hand. But there is no sense of victory in this conviction - only a renewed urgency to do what we can to prevent the next tragedy.
"As this trial closes, let us each mark this day by rededicating ourselves to fighting discrimination and hate against LGBTQ youth -- and to educating all of our youth about respect for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."