Posted on : 24-04-2011 | By : Julie Gottlieb | In : Buzz, Government, Online Speech
Tags: cyberbully law, Dharun Ravi, Lady Gaga, Tyler Clementi, VH1
Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi was charged Wednesday with a hate crime for allegedly using a webcam to spy on and broadcast his roommate, Tyler Clementi’s same-sex encounter last September. After seeing the videos of himself kissing a man and reading tweets about the incident, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. His last Facebook post simply said, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” Ravi was indicted on 15 counts, including charges of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and witness-and evidence-tampering. Molly Wei, a co-defendant in the case accused of helping Ravi view and stream the video, was not indicted on Wednesday. It was unclear whether a case against Wei will go before a grand jury or whether she helped prosecutors in the case against Ravi, who remains free on $25,000 bail.
In a statement Clementi’s parents, Jane and Joe Clementi, said, “The grand jury indictment spells out cold and calculated acts against our son, Tyler, by his former college roommate. If these facts are true, as they appear to be, then it is important for our criminal justice system to establish clear accountability under the law.” According to the indictment, Ravi targeted Clementi and invaded his privacy knowing that he would be intimidated because of his sexual orientation. Furthermore, the indictment states that Ravi not only suppressed, concealed and/or destroyed evidence but also knowingly provided false information to mislead investigators.
So far Ravi’s defense seems to be that the webcam stream was only viewed on one computer and did not show the men having sex. However, the evidence shows that Ravi posted a link on Twitter to view the livestream, and then attempted to cover it up by replacing it with a false tweet. Ravi also allegedly deleted relevant text messages, and asked potential witnesses not to testify against him. If convicted, Ravi could face more than 65 years in prison.
Since Clementi’s death many public figures have rallied together to stop bullying. In his article, Tyler Clementi’s Roomate Indicted on Hate Crime Charges Gil Kaufman writes, “Clementi’s death inspired a nationwide anti-bullying movement that has drawn support from everyone from Lady Gaga to President Obama, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.” New Jersey lawmakers also joined the anti-bulling movement by enacting the toughest anti-bullying laws in the Nation, and mandating The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. Under the new laws, most public school teachers, administrators and other employees must be trained to spot, investigate and/or report or address bullying that occurs on and off school grounds or face discipline. The new laws also require schools to hold an annual “Week of Respect” starting on the first Monday of October. State Attorney General Paula Dow, who hailed Ravi’s indictment as a step to stem bigotry told the Star Ledger that “New Jersey’s bias law recognizes the terrible harm caused by acts of bigotry and hatred and imposes harsher punishment on those who commit such crimes.” Furthermore, Clementi’s death inspired VH1’s “It Gets Better” and revived MTV’s “A Thin Line” anit-bullying initiatives.
I expect Ravi’s indictment will serve as a wake up call to those engaged in cyberbullying. Cyberbullying, especially in New Jersey, is a crime that will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
To learn more about Ravi’s indictment please read: