Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi was convicted of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation charges Friday for spying on his roommate in a sexual encounter with another man.
A Middlesex County, N.J., jury found Ravi, 20, guilty of every charge handed up in a 15-count indictment last year, although the panel made some distinctions that focused on Ravi's alleged motives.
The spying incident attracted national attention and became a cause celebre in gay rights circles and beyond after Ravi's roommate, Tyler Clementi, 18, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge days after learning Ravi had used his laptop to stream a webcam video of his encounter on Sept. 19, 2010.
The verdict was hailed in some circles as a step forward in the fight against bias intimidation of gays. But other legal experts questioned the jury's decision and predicted it would be appealed.
"The actions of Dharun Ravi were inexcusable and surely added to Tyler Clementi's vulnerability and pain," said Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director for Lamba Legal, a national legal organization that focuses on civil rights issues for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals.
"The verdict today demonstrates that the jurors understood that bias crimes do not require physical weapons like a knife in one's hands."
But Annemarie P. McAvoy, an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School, said the verdict was "murky and confusing" and could provide the basis for a serious appeal by Ravi's attorneys.
"The jury appeared to find that Ravi's intentions were not out of hatred or bias," she said. "But the jurors believed Tyler Clementi perceived them as such . ... It's an outrageous standard."
The jury, which deliberated for about 12 hours over three days, appeared to parse the issue of bias intimidation, which was charged in four of the 15 counts.
Ravi was charged with using his laptop webcam to stream an encounter between Clementi and a man identified only as "M.B." on Sept. 19, 2010, and attempting to do so again on Sept. 21.
In the four bias intimidation counts, Ravi was convicted of conduct that "caused" Clementi to be intimidated and to believe "that he was selected to be the target of the offense because of sexual orientation."
But under each count, the jury rejected arguments that Ravi set out to invade Clementi's privacy "with the purpose" to intimidate him, finding him not guilty of that aspect of the charge.
In each count, the jury also rejected allegations that Clementi's sexual partner was the target of bias intimidation.
While Clementi's death was not part of the indictment, it turned a spotlight on the case.
The attention intensified after initial police reports indicated that Ravi had videotaped and broadcast the encounter online. Those reports, which were incorrect, helped fuel a media firestorm that brought news of the case around the world.
In fact, testimony indicated, no more than six students, including Ravi, briefly viewed Clementi and his guest kissing on the night of Sept. 19. There was no webcam stream of their encounter on Sept. 21, although Ravi attempted to set one up.
Throughout the trial. Ravi's lawyer, Steven Altman, had argued that his client did not intend to harass or intimidate Clementi because of his sexual orientation.
Altman described Ravi's actions as "stupid" and "immature," the acts of an 18-year-old college freshman living away from home for the first time.
Ravi, of Plainsboro, N.J., showed little emotion as the verdicts were announced shortly before noon.
A native of India who came to this country with his parents as a child, he could face deportation in addition to a jail sentence of up to 10 years for the most serious bias intimidation charges.
In addition to the four bias intimidation counts, Ravi was convicted of two counts of invasion of privacy, two counts of attempted invasion of privacy, three counts of tampering with evidence, three counts of hindering prosecution and one count of witness tampering.
He also was charged with erasing or altering Twitter and text messages in which he commented about the incident and encouraged others to view the webcam stream.
Ravi remained free on $25,000 bail. Neither he nor his lawyer would comment as they left the courthouse Friday afternoon.
Ravi had rejected a plea offer last year that would have resulted in no jail time, six months probation and several hundred hours of community service.
Most Popular Stories
- Updates on Everglades' Stranded Pilot Whales
- NSA Tracks 5 Billion Cellphone Records a Day
- Hezbollah Chief's Assassination Claimed by Sunni Group
- Stolen Cobalt-60 Recovered in Mexico
- Wind Power and Wildlife Can Coexist
- Ford Mustang Still Packs Power
- Allstate Seeks to Invest in Minority Firms
- Sarmiento to Handle Greeley Latin Ops
- First-time Jobless Claims Drop Below 300,000
- Roybal-Allard Tours Gordon Brush Plant