Hate charges considered over sex video student death
- 1 October 2010
- From the section US & Canada
Prosecutors in the case of a US student who killed himself after two students allegedly filmed him having sex with a man are considering hate crime charges.
Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, jumped to his death from a bridge on 22 September.
Students Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei have been charged with illegally filming the 18-year-old.
The pair already face up to five years in prison if convicted.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said "bias" was being investigated.
Under New Jersey law, a suspect can be convicted of hate crimes if a jury accepts the motive was bias against a protected minority.
"We will be making every effort to assess whether bias played a role in the incident, and, if so, we will bring appropriate charges," Mr Kaplan said in a statement.
Mr Ravi and Miss Wei are currently charged with counts of invasion of privacy. The most serious charges would see them face up to five years in prison.
"Tyler was a fine young man and a distinguished musician. The family is heartbroken beyond words," Paul Mainardi, a lawyer for Mr Clementi's family, said in a statement confirming the suicide.
The teenage violinist's body was identified on Thursday after his body was found in the Hudson River a day earlier.
The footage was allegedly taken using a web camera in Mr Clementi's dorm room and broadcast live over the internet.
An account belonging to Mr Ravi on the microblogging website Twitter has recently been deleted. But in a recovered snapshot of the account obtained from Google, Mr Ravi wrote about an experience involving his room-mate.
"Room-mate 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," Mr Ravi wrote on Twitter on 19 September.
Two days later Mr Ravi wrote: "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again."
Gay rights organisations say Mr Clementi's suicide is an example of a nationwide problem - young people killing themselves after being bullied over their sexuality.
"Had he been in bed with a woman, this would not have happened," said Lauren Felton, 21, a Rutgers student. "He wouldn't have been outed via an online broadcast, and his privacy would have been respected and he might still have his life."
But there were some who spoke in defence of the suspects, saying they were clearly not homophobic.
"He had gay friends," said Derek Yan, 16, a high school friend of Mr Ravi. Recent online conversations showed he liked Clementi.
"He said he was lucky to have a good roommate. He said his roommate was cool."