Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Indictments Handed Down in Tyler Clementi Case

The roommate of Tyler Clemente, a Rutgers University student who committed suicide, has been indicted on 15 counts, including invasion of privacy:
In the days after Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide, his roommate tried to cover up his alleged role in using a webcam to secretly watch Clementi in an intimate encounter with another man, prosecutors said today.

Dharun Ravi, 19, misled investigators by deleting text messages from his phone and changing an incriminating post about the webcam on his Twitter account, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said. The teenager also allegedly tried to convince friends not to testify against him.

A grand jury indicted Ravi, of Plainsboro, on 15 counts today as prosecutors for the first time labeled the case a hate crime. If convicted of the most serious charges, Ravi could face five to 10 years in prison, Kaplan said.

Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge Sept. 22, shortly after learning about the webcam. His story became national news as an example of gay bashing and cyber bullying.

The indictment handed up by a Middlesex County grand jury in New Brunswick included two counts of invasion of privacy and two counts of attempted invasion of privacy Ravi was charged with shortly after Clementi’s suicide.

But the indictment also included several new charges related to Ravi’s alleged attempts to dupe investigators by deleting text messages and replacing one of his Twitter posts with a new statement designed to mislead police. The additional charges include three counts each of tampering with evidence and hindering his own apprehension and a single count of witness tampering, the prosecutor said.
The invasion of privacy case is pretty cut and dried - NJ Rev. Stat. 2C:14-9 requires that the person be viewed/observed without that person's consent and under circumstances in which a reasonable person would not expect to be observed. The consequences of the viewing is irrelevant to whether Ravi would be guilty or not of the charge. Given that a reasonable person would expect that he would be in the privacy of his own room and not taped/streamed to the Internet, it would be more than likely that Ravi committed the crime of invasion of privacy. The consequences of that crime are not in consideration here - nor is the state of mind of Clementi. All that is to be assessed is whether a reasonable person would have had an expectation of privacy.

Most seriously for Ravi are the multiple charges of evidence tampering, hindering the apprehension, and witness tampering.

The other student accused of spying/taping Clementi, Molly Wei, was not charged at this time but remains a suspect in the case.

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