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Posts for October, 2010

ABC News: New Jersey Prosecuters Considering Hate Crime Charges

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2010

ABC’s Good Morning America is reporting that New Jersey prosecutors investigating Tyler Clementi’s suicide are considering adding hate crime charges against Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, who have been charged with violating Tyler’s privacy after livestreaming video of Tyler’s sexual encounter with another male without his knowledge.

According to ABC News, New Jersey’s state law against “bias intimidation” makes it a criminal offense to invade someone’s privacy because of sexual orientation. The word “because” may be the sticking point. The publicly released information available so far can easily point to this crime being motivated by other factors. Motivations of personal animus toward Tyler fit the evidence just as easily. So does the motivation to simply pull an idiotic and appalling “prank.”

Either way, invasions of privacy are felony offenses. While references to Tyler’s sexuality appear on tweets that Ravi posted to his Twitter account, none of them use anti-gay epithets or indicate overt hostility toward Tyler’s sexuality — at least what we know so far of Ravi’s postings so far. Demonstrating that Tyler was singled out specifically because of his sexuality in a court of law may prove difficult, unless prosecutors have found further evidence that they haven’t made public yet.

Body Pulled From Hudson Identified As Tyler Clementi

Jim Burroway

September 30th, 2010

Tyler ClementiThe New York Medical Examiner’s office has confirmed that a body that was pulled from the Hudson River above the George Washington Bridge is that of Tyler Clementi:

Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York City Medical Examiner’s office, said the death was ruled a suicide, with the cause listed as drowning, with blunt impact injuries.

Tyler, an eitheen-year-old Rutgers freshman, jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his sexual encounter with another male student was livestreamed on the Internet without his knowledge by his roommate. Police have charged the roommate, Dharan Ravi, and another freshman, Molly Wei with several counts of violating Tyler’s privacy. They face up to five years’ imprisonment for each count.

Tyler Clementi May Have Reached Out To Gay Website For Advice Before Committing Suicide

Jim Burroway

September 30th, 2010

Tyler Clementi

Gawker has found some posts from a forum at justusboys.com (registration required) written by someone with the handle of “cit2mo,” who describes a situation remarkably similar to Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who committed suicide after his roommate surreptitiously videoed him having sex with another man and broadcasted it on the Internet. The emails are dated September 21 through the early morning of September 22, the day Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

In the first email on the morning of September 21, “cit2mo” writes:

so the other night I had a guy over. I talked to my roommate that afternoon and he had said it would be fine w/him. I checked his twitter today. he tweeted that I was using the room (which is obnoxious enough), AND that he went into somebody else’s room and remotely turned on his webcam and saw me makeing out with a guy. given the angle of the webcam I can be confident that that was all he could have seen.

A couple hours later, “cit2mo” comes back again:

and so I feel like it was “look at what a fag my roommate is”
–other people have commented on his profile with things like “how did you manage to go back in there?” are you okay?”

and the fact that the people he was with saw my making out with a guy as the scandal whereas i mean come on…he was SPYING ON ME….do they see nothing wrong with this?

In this post, “cit2mo” said that he decided to fill out a room change request form, but noted that changes were not guaranteed.  Later that evening “cit2mo” responds to a suggesting that the spying could be against school policy. “cit2mo confirms that he has found the policy and that anyone who violates it could be expelled. But he takes little comfort in that:

the only things is…there are too many ‘could’s ….the fact that he didn’t ACTUALLY record me (to my knowledge) and the fact that the shool really prolly won’t du much of anything…

“cit2mo” then says he will speak to his Residential Adviser. It appears at this time he hasn’t actually spoken to anyone at the university yet. A few hours later, “cit2mo” posts again:

so I wanted to have the guy over again.

I texted roomie around 7 asking for the room later tonight and he said it was fine.

when I got back to the room I instantly noticed he had turned the webcam toward my bed. And he had posted online again….saying….”anyone want a free show just video chat me tonight”…or something similar to that….

soooo after that…..

I ran to the nearest RA and set this thing in motion…..
we’ll see what happens……

I haven’t even seen my roommate since sunday when i was asking for the room the first time…and him doing it gain just set me off….so talking to him just didn’t seem like an option….

meanwhile I turned off and unplugged his computer, went crazt looking for the other hidden cams….and then had a great time.

All of this corresponds roughly to the tweets from Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, who with Molly Wei, have been arrested and charged with invasion of privacy.

“cit2mo’s” last post is early on the morning of September 22, after he had spoken to the RA:

he seemed to take it seriously…
he asked me to email him a written paragraph about what exactly happened…
I emailed it to him, and to two people above him….

That was early Wednesday morning. “cit2mo’s” posts seemed very calm and rational.  Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge at about 9:00 that evening. If “cit2mo” is Tyler — and it seems very likely — then that still leaves an almost fifteen hour gap where we don’t know what happened. Did he receive a message from the university that he interpreted as hopeless? Did the tauntings increase to an unbearable scale? I imagine police investigators will be looking into all of these possibilities and more.

Tyler Clementi’s Circle of Abusers Widen

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2010

Tyler Clementi

The Daily Beast sheds some more light into the harassment that Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi likely suffered in the days leading to his suicide. Tyler committed suicide after his roommate broadcast video over the Internet of him having a sexual encounter with another man. Tyler’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, announced those broadcasts via Twitter:

Three days before Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge, known by police as “surefire” for suicides, 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.” Although the feed has been deleted, caches turned up the roll. On Sept. 22, Ravi tweeted, “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again.” That was the night Clementi was last heard from.

While Ravi and Wei purged their Twitter feeds, their friends did not. Ravi’s friend from high school and fellow Rutgers student Nikhil Mashettiwar tweeted to his friend on Sept. 20, “we should get our roommates together.” The day after Clementi apparently killed himself, Mashettiwar tweeted, “Gay kid in class: i hate when i like have to repeat myself.” Mashettiwar did not respond to requests for comment about his tweets and deleted his Twitter feed within an hour of being contacted.

How many others were in on the “joke”? Ravi’s Twitter feed reportedly had 150 followers.

Ravi and Molly Wei have been charged with invasion of privacy and face up to five years’ imprisonment. Meanwhile, the body of a red-headed young man wearing an orange watch has been recovered from the Hudson River this afternoon. Authorities believe it to be Tyler’s body, but are awaiting confirmation from the New York Medical Examiner.

ABC News Covers Recent Suicides

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2010

Here is ABC New’s extra web coverage of Dan Savage’s YouTube project, “It Gets Better”:

And speaking of “It Get’s Better,” here’s another contribution from a Muslim gay teen. He grew up in a Shia Pakistani family, and he says to hang in there. It Gets Better:

YouTube Preview Image

Tyler Clementi’s Final Facebook Status: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry”

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2010
Tyler Clementi

Tyler Clementi

Tyler Clementi, the eighteen-year-old Rutgers freshman who committed suicide after his roommate broadcast hidden camera videos on the Internet of Tyler having a sexual encounter in his dorm room, had changed his Facebook status to “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry” on Wednesday, September 22. Witnesses saw someone jump off of the George Washington Bridge on Wednesday evening at about 9:00 pm. Police found his wallet with his driver’s license and Rutgers I.D. on the bridge’s walkway, and his car, computer and cell phone were found nearby.

It has been a week since Tyler’s suicide, and his body had not been found. The New York Times tonight however is reporting that police say they have found the body of a young man in the Hudson River north of the bridge and were trying to identify it.

Dharun Ravi's Twitter feed, September 19-21

Dharun Ravi's Twitter feed, September 19-21 (Click to enlarge)

Tyler’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, and fellow Rutgers freshman, Molly Wei, have each been charged with two counts of invasion of privacy. Authorities charge that they used a hidden webcam to live stream a sexual encounter between Tyler and another man. Ravi had alerted people to the live stream via a Twitter post on September 19, saying “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.”

Ravi was charged with two additional counts of invasion of privacy for trying to set up another surreptitious broadcast on September 21, the day before Tyler’s suicide. He announced that attempt again on his Twitter feed, saying “”Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again.” That second attempt was unsuccessful. Ravi’s Twitter feed, which had 150 followers, has since been taken down.

Dharun Ravi (left), and Molly Wei (right)

Dharun Ravi (left), and Molly Wei (right)

Ravi surrendered to police on Tuesday and was released on $25,000 bail. Wei, who turned herself in on Monday, has been released on her own recognizance. Ravi and Wei both had been classmates together in high school. They now face up to five years imprisonment for each count.

The New York Times notes that Tyler’s death, in addition to the horrendous tragedy that it is, also represents a cruel irony:

The timing of the news was almost uncanny, coinciding with the start of “Project Civility” at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey. Long in the planning, the campaign will involve panel discussions, lectures, workshops and other events intended to raise awareness about the importance of respect, compassion and courtesy in everyday interactions.

Events scheduled for this fall include a workshop for students and administrators on residential life on campus, called “Respect Resides at Rutgers,” and a panel discussion titled “Uncivil Gadgets? Changing Technologies and Civil Behavior.”

Tyler was an accomplished violinist who was attending Rutgers on a college scholarship from the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra for his musicianship and leadership. His family released a statement earlier today:

“Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician. The family is heartbroken beyond words. They respectfully request that they be given time to grieve their great loss and that their privacy at this painful time be respected by all.”

A memorial page for Tyler has been set up on Facebook. Nearly 6,000 people have joined the page as of 9:30 EST this evening.

Rutgers Student Commits Suicide Following Anti-Gay Harrassment

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2010

It’s not just high school kids being bullied and humiliated to their deaths:

A Rutgers University freshman killed himself after two classmates used a hidden dorm room camera to splash his sex life across the internet, sources told the Daily News.

A distraught Tyler Clementi, 18, left his wallet on the George Washington Bridge before plunging to his death in the Hudson River last Wednesday, sources said.

A Twitter post from one of the students accused of streaming the sexual encounter live on the internet indicated Clementi, a renowned high school violinist, was with another man.

“Roommate asked for the room till midnight,” read the post from Dharun Ravi, 18. “I went into Molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

The Twitter post went up Sept. 19 – three days before Clementi’s suicide.

Ravi and another accomplice, Molly Wei, also 18, were charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy for the Sept. 19 livesreaming broadcast. Ravi was charged with two more counts for trying to arrange a second livestreamign session. New Jersey’s privacy laws make it a crime to transmit or view images of nudity or sexual contact with an individual without that person’s consent. Ravi and Wei both face up to five years’ imprisonment for each count.