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Rutgers Ex-Roommate Found Guilty of Hate Crime in Clementi Case

Dharun Ravi, the ex-Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate's love life, has now been convicted of invasion of privacy and anti-gay intimidation. It was a case that exploded into the headlines when Tyler Clementi, a freshman and talented musician at Rutgers, threw himself off the George Washington Bridge.

The Associated Press says that Ravi shook his head slightly after hearing the guilty verdicts on all 15 counts against him. He could now get several years in prison — and could be deported to his native India, even though he has lived legally in the U.S. since he was a little boy.

Prosecutors said Ravi set up a webcam in his dorm room in September 2010 and captured roommate Tyler Clementi kissing another man, then tweeted about it and tried to catch Clementi in the act again two days later. A half-dozen students were believed to have seen the live video. Within days, Clementi realized he had been watched and leaped from the George Washington Bridge after posting one last status update on Facebook: "Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry."

Clementi's death was one in a string of suicides by young gay teens around the country in 2010. New Jersey lawmakers hastened passage of an anti-bullying law because of the case and Rutgers changed its housing policies to allow opposite-sex roommates in an effort to make gay, bisexual, and transgender students feel more comfortable.

A number of 30 witnesses testified in the case over 12 days, including M.B., the 32-year-old man seen kissing Clementi. Ravi himself did not testify.

Ravi and Clementi, both 18-year-old freshmen from New Jersey suburbs, had been randomly assigned to room together at Rutgers, and Clementi had arrived at college just a few days after coming out to his parents as gay. A string of students testified they never heard Ravi say anything bad about gays in general or Clementi in particular. But students did say Ravi expressed some concern about sharing a room with a gay man.

On Sept. 19, according to testimony, Clementi asked Ravi to leave their room so that he could have a guest. Later, Ravi posted on Twitter: "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." His friend Molly Wei testified that she and a few other students also watched the live stream of the men kissing. Wei was initially charged in the case but was later accepted into a pretrial program that will allow her to keep her record clean.

Two nights later, Clementi asked for the room alone again. This time, Ravi tweeted: "I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again." Ravi also texted a friend about a planned "viewing party" and, two students said, went to friends' dorm rooms to show them how to access the feed.

However, there was no evidence the webcam was turned on that night. Ravi told police he had put his computer to sleep. Prosecutors argued Clementi himself unplugged the computer. According to testimony, Clementi submitted a room-change request form and talked to a resident assistant about what happened. He also used his laptop to view Ravi's Twitter site 38 times in the last two days of his life. He later killed himself on Sept. 22.

Ravi's lawyer argued that the college freshman was not motivated by any hostility toward gays and that his actions were just those of an immature "kid." But the prosecution argued that it was a clear case of anti-gay bullying. The jury found Ravi guilty of all 15 counts as a whole. The most serious charges — bias intimidation based on sexual orientation, a hate crime — carry up to 10 years in prison each. Legal experts said the most Ravi would probably get all together at sentencing May 21 would be 10 years.

Alexandra is a graduate from the University of New Hampshire and the current Assistant Digital Editor at Martha Stewart Living. As a journalism student, she worked as the Director of UNH’s Student Press Organization (SPO) and on staff for four student publications on her campus. In the summer of 2010, she studied abroad at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University, in England, where she drank afternoon tea and rode the Tube (but sadly no, she did not meet Prince Harry). Since beginning her career, her written work has appeared in USA Today College, Huffington Post, Northshore, and MarthaStewart.com, among others. When not in the office, she can be found perusing travel magazines to plan her next trip, walking her two dogs (both named Rocky), or practicing ballet. Chat with her on Twitter @allie_churchill.
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