Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Brody's Notes... Closeted 18 Year Old Aspiring Musician Jumps To His Death After Being Secretly Webcast

Tyler Clementi's Profile Photo On Facebook
By Brody Levesque (Washington DC) SEPT 29 | The following was compiled from reports by the Associated Press, ABCNews, The Newark Star-Ledger, & NBC News-MSNBC:
A college student jumped to his death off a bridge a day after authorities say two classmates surreptitiously recorded him having sex with a man in his dorm room and broadcast it over the Internet. The Rutgers freshman, Tyler Clementi, jumped off the George Washington Bridge last Thursday, the Clementi family's attorney, Paul Mainardi, confirmed on Wednesday.
Police recovered a man's body Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River just north of the bridge, and authorities were trying to determine if it was Clementi's, The Associated Press reported. ABC News and The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Clementi left on his Facebook page on Sept. 22 a note that read: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." On Wednesday, his Facebook page was accessible only to friends.
"Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician," Mainardi said. "The family is heartbroken beyond words."
Two fellow Rutgers freshmen, Dharun Ravi, of Plainsboro, and Molly W. Wei, of Princeton, both 18, have been charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy. According to the Middlesex County prosecutor's office, they secretly placed a camera in the victim's dorm room in Piscataway "to view and transmit a live image" of the student having sex on Sept. 19.
Ravi also is charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for attempting to use the camera to view and transmit another encounter involving the student two days later. Mainardi told the Star-Ledger that Ravi and the victim were roommates at Rutgers. 
"The family and their representatives are cooperating fully with the ongoing criminal investigations of two Rutgers University students," he said in a statement. "They will have no further comment at this time."
Wei was released on her own recognizance after surrendering to Rutgers police in New Brunswick on Monday, according to the prosecutor's office. Ravi surrendered to Rutgers police on Tuesday and was released on $25,000 bail.
Under New Jersey’s invasion-of-privacy statutes, it is a fourth-degree crime to collect or view images depicting nudity or sexual contact involving another individual without that person’s consent, and it is a third-degree crime to transmit or distribute such images. The penalty for conviction of a third-degree offense can include a prison term of up to five years.
Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said in a statement Wednesday that his group considers Clementi's death a hate crime.
"We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind," Goldstein said. "And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others' lives as a sport."
It wasn't immediately clear what Clementi's sexual orientation was, and a call asking the family's lawyer about it was not immediately returned Wednesday. Clementi's driver's license and Rutgers ID were found in a wallet left on the bridge on Sept. 22 after two witnesses saw someone jump from it, a law enforcement official told The AP. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Clementi's body hadn't been positively identified.
Ravi and Wei, who according to the Star-Ledger were high school classmates before enrolling at Rutgers this fall, could not be located for comment Wednesday by Ravi and Wei did not respond to e-mail requests for comment Tuesday from the Star-Ledger.
Steve Altman, Ravi’s attorney, told "I understand the investigation is continuing because of the missing status of the alleged victim. That being so, I would not be doing the ethical thing to make any comment at the present time."
It was not immediately known if Wei had an attorney.
“The university takes these matters seriously and has policies to deal with student behavior," Rutgers spokeswoman Sandra Lanman said. "Under federal law, the university cannot comment on specifics involving student conduct.”
Lanman and the Middlesex County prosecutor's office told they had no information on the reported suicide.
"Our case is limited to the charging of two Rutgers students in the invasion of privacy case," said Jim O’Neill, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office. "I don’t know anything about suicide and that’s not part of the case we’re handling." O'Neil said the investigation is continuing and he didn’t know whether additional charges would be considered.
The investigation began after Rutgers police learned that a camera had been placed in the 18-year-old student’s dorm room without permission, Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan and Rutgers University Police Chief Rhonda Harris said in a news release.
The Middlesex County prosecutor's office wouldn't provide details of the alleged sexual encounters, including how and where they were broadcast. Ravi wrote Sept. 19 on what is believed to his Twitter page, which has since been deleted: 
"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."
Two days later, Ravi apparently posted another entry referring to iChat, an internet messaging service with a live video feed.
"Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again," Ravi wrote in the Sept. 21 post, according to a Web-cached version of his Twitter feed.
Ed Schmiedecke, the recently retired music director at Ridgewood High School, where Clementi graduated earlier this year, said Clementi was a violinist whose life revolved around music.
"He was a terrific musician, and a very promising, hardworking young man," he told the AP.


Trab said...

Maybe part of the solution is to elevate the crimes involved in bullying, whatever their nature, to 2nd degree murder if the bullying results in death, even if it is by suicide. Isn't there something similar with the use of guns in a robbery; automatic elevation due to the guns being present?

On the other hand, maybe it is time to bring back public floggings of the perps.