A former Rutgers University student accused ofusing a webcam to spy on his gay roommate's lovelife was convicted Friday of invasion of privacyand anti-gay intimidation in a case that explodedinto the headlines when the victim threw himselfto his death off a bridge.
Dharun Ravi, 20, shook his head slightly afterhearing guilty verdicts on all 15 counts againsthim. He and his lawyers left the courthousewithout comment, his father's arm around hisshoulders.
He could get up to 10 years in prison by someestimates -- and could be deported to his nativeIndia, even though he has lived legally in theU.S. since he was a little boy -- for an act thatcast a spotlight on teen suicide and anti-gaybullying and illustrated the Internet's potentialfor tormenting others.
Prosecutors said Ravi set up a webcam in his dormroom in September 2010 and captured roommate TylerClementi kissing another man, then tweeted aboutit and excitedly tried to catch Clementi in theact again two days later. A half-dozen studentswere believed to have seen the live video of thekissing.
Within days, Clementi realized he had been watchedand leaped from the George Washington Bridge afterposting one last status update on Facebook:"Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry."
At a courthouse news conference after the verdict,Clementi's father, Joe, addressed himself tocollege students and other young people, saying:"You're going to meet a lot of people in yourlife. Some of these people you may not like. Justbecause you don't like them doesn't mean you haveto work against them."
Rutgers said in a statement: "This sad incidentshould make us all pause to recognize theimportance of civility and mutual respect in theway we live, work and communicate with others."
During the trial, Ravi's lawyer argued that thecollege freshman was not motivated by anyhostility toward gays and that his actions werejust those of an immature "kid." The defense alsocontended Ravi initially set up the camera becausehe was afraid Clementi's older, "sketchy"-lookingvisitor might steal his belongings.
The jury found Ravi not guilty on some subparts ofsome of the charges, but guilty of all 15 countsas a whole.
The most serious charges -- bias intimidation basedon sexual orientation, a hate crime -- carry up to10 years behind bars each. But legal experts saidthe most Ravi would probably get all together atsentencing May 21 would be 10 years.
Before the trial, Ravi and his lawyers hadrejected a plea bargain that would have spared himfrom prison. He would have gotten probation andcommunity service and would have been given helpin avoiding deportation.
Ravi was not charged with causing Clementi'sdeath, and the suicide remained largely in thebackground at the trial, though some witnessesmentioned it and the jury was told Clementi hadtaken his life.
Prosecutors were not allowed to argue directlythat the spying led to his death; defense lawyerswere barred from saying there were other reasonshe killed himself.
Each bias intimidation charge included fivequestions. A finding of guilty on any of them madeRavi guilty of the entire charge. The jury issueda split verdict on those subquestions.
It found, for example, that Ravi did not try tointimidate Clementi's romantic partner, identifiedin court only as M.B., and that Clementireasonably believed Ravi was trying to intimidatehim because of his sexual orientation. It split onquestions of whether Ravi knowingly or willfullyintimidated Clementi because of his sexuality.
Clementi's death was one in a string of suicidesby young gays around the country in September2010. President Barack Obama commented on it, asdid talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
New Jersey lawmakers hastened passage of an anti-bullying law because of the case, and Rutgerschanged its housing policies to allow people ofthe opposite sex to room together in an effort tomake gay, bisexual and transgender students feelmore comfortable.
"The verdict today demonstrates that the jurorsunderstood that bias crimes do not requirephysical weapons like a knife in one's hand," saidHayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director of the gayrights organization Lambda Legal.
Testimony came from about 30 witnesses over 12days, including 32-year-old M.B. Ravi himself didnot testify, though the jury watched a video ofhis interrogation by police.
Ravi and Clementi, both 18-year-old freshmen fromcomfortable New Jersey suburbs, had been randomlyassigned to room together, and Clementi hadarrived at college just a few days after comingout to his parents as gay.
A string of students testified they never heardRavi say anything bad about gays in general orClementi in particular. But students did say Raviexpressed some concern about sharing a room with agay man.
On Sept. 19, according to testimony, Clementiasked Ravi to leave their room so that he couldhave a guest. Later, Ravi posted on Twitter:"Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I wentinto molly's room and turned on my webcam. I sawhim making out with a dude. Yay."
Ravi told police that he watched only seconds ofthe encounter via computer.
His friend Molly Wei testified that she and a fewother students also watched the live stream of themen kissing. (Wei was initially charged in thecase but was later accepted into a pretrialprogram that will allow her to keep her recordclean.)
Two nights later, Clementi asked for the roomalone again. This time, Ravi tweeted: "I dare youto video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12.Yes, it's happening again." He also texted afriend about a planned "viewing party" andallegedly went to friends' rooms to show them howto access the feed.
However, there was no evidence the webcam wasturned on that night. Ravi told police he had puthis computer to sleep. Prosecutors argued Clementihimself unplugged the computer.
According to testimony, Clementi submitted a room-change request form and talked to a residentassistant about what happened. He also used hislaptop to view Ravi's Twitter site 38 times in thelast two days of his life. He killed himself Sept.22.