Bil Browning

Tyler Clementi Peeping Toms Find Legal Loophole?

Filed By Bil Browning | November 01, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Dharun Ravi, legal loophole, Molly Wei, Rutgers University, Tyler Clementi

The two teens who broadcast Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi's makeout session with another student have come up with a legal loophole that might save them from criminal punishment. Ravi-Wei.jpgClementi wasn't out to anyone and later jumped off the George Washington Bridge after the two dorm-mates outed him to the campus.

According to their lawyers, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, the Rutgers first-years accused of webcam-spying on Ravi's roommate Tyler Clementi days before Clementi's suicide, didn't see Clementi having sex--and therefore, the attorneys say, the charges won't hold up.

...Wei's lawyer thinks that the charge of invasion of privacy based on seeing Clementi engaged in sexual contact won't hold up because there was no "sexual contact"--just making out: "The statute defining sexual contact refers to nudity and private parts, and, to my knowledge, nothing like that was seen."

Ah, well. Suddenly it's all okay, isn't it? I'm sure they're fine upstanding kids who are just misunderstood. Consequences? Isn't another dead gay teen consequences enough? Why should they have to, oh, I don't know, take responsibility for their actions? I mean, surely if they didn't get to see the poor kid choking down a boner, it must be perfectly reasonable to broadcast him on the internet and tell the entire dorm about it.

Bah. This just makes me want to spit.

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Paige Listerud | November 1, 2010 5:25 PM

Simply capturing Tyler necking and streaming that live on the internet without Tyler's consent is an invasion of his privacy that had serious ramifications for his future life. We don't need to see the full monty to know his privacy was violated. Let them stand up and take responsibility for what they've done. It was a passive aggressive act that led to irreversible consequences.

I don't think it's really a loophole if the loophole is "They didn't break the law." It's like saying that someone accused of murder but then the victim is found alive and safe found the "legal loophole" of not having committed a crime.

I'm sure the argument isn't that they didn't do anything illegal, but that it doesn't rise to the level reported in the media. There is a difference between broadcasting someone at their house and someone having sex at their house and they should be dealt with differently in the law.

We don't know what was broadcast, but what we do know is that there was more happening in Clementi's life than just these two recordings and suicide isn't just the result of a violation of his privacy. Mentally healthy people don't commit suicide just because they got caught making out, not even if they're gay on a college campus in 2010. It's not so disgusting it's the end of the world to make out with a dude.

This was a strange story and lots of people are trying to make it more than it is. Since everyone involved has been staying silent, we're not going to know what's there for a while.

I just wonder about where the money is coming from to finance their legal defense? American Family Association? Focus on the Family? KKK?

Aubrey Haltom | November 2, 2010 8:19 AM

I agree with Alex. There is so much more to this issue than getting 'caught' making out.

It seems disrespectful to Clementi to think we know what compelled him to take his own life - as if we can reduce him to a single act, predicated on a single issue (the online camera).

I'll add a personal note. My youngest brother committed suicide earlier this year.

He was going through a heartbreaking divorce, and the suicide came out of the blue. Many of his friends wanted to blame the 'ex'. But people get divorced every day without suicide being involved.
There was something else going on in his life, what that was I'll never quite understand.

I've thought the Clementi situation was an example of a college prank gone wrong. Were the 2 students insensitive? Obviously. And Clementi's suicide is a tragedy. But I've never been convinced there was some vicious homophobia behind the act.

And the assumption that we know what led Clementi to do what he did runs the risk of belittling the pain he was experiencing.

Allen Lawrence | November 2, 2010 1:03 PM

Folks, what these 2 young adults, Ravi and Wei, did was wrong and the result of their actions was horrible, but as a gay man living in NYC and reading all the news possible around the time of this sad incident, I don't believe they committed a hate crime. I am not even sure that they knew Clementi was trying to hook up with a guy.
I agree with Aubrey Haltom who says "It seems disrespectful to Clementi to think we know what compelled him to take his own life..." However, as a 52 year old gay man who grew up in the South, I suffered plenty of bullying and while I could not go to my parents as a teenager for assistance, they certainly were as supportive as I allowed them to be until I came out.
Clementi's parents are probably my age or younger, they live in Northern New Jersey, at a socio-economic level that allowed them to provide music lessons and a car to their college-bound son (we were considered middle class in NC in 1976 and I didn't have those things), but they provided so little support or affirmation that it appears (again remembering what Aubrey wrote) that Clementi would rather kill himself than face the bullying or go to them for support.
Ravi and Wei were wrong and deserve to be punished for invasion of privacy. I believe their lives are ruined by most standards from this thoughtless behavior, but I also believe that Clementi's parents are the truly guilty ones in this situation.