Jury selection has begun in New Jersey in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man.
Dharun Ravi, 19, is charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, and tampering and hindering a police investigation.
The case revolves around two incidents in September 2010 when Ravi allegedly tried to record his roommate,Tyler Clementi, having an intimate encounter with another man. Ravi is accused of using his computer webcam to broadcast the encounter to friends.
Days later, 18-year-old Clementi jumped to his death — drawing national media attention to issues of cyber bullying and homophobia.
But Ravi's attorney is expected to argue the incident was an unfortunate teen-age prank that had nothing to do bias. A recent article in The New Yorker gave a detailed account of the electronic communications exchanged by both Clementi and Ravi, and raised questions about the tensions brought on by immaturity, obnoxiousness and homophobia that can occur in a tiny freshman dorm room.
Ravi's co-defendant, former Rutgers student Molly Wei, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and received probation. But Ravi could face a 10 year sentence for the bias intimidation charge, and also faces deportation because he is a legal resident who was born in India.
Clementi was 18 years old at the time of his death. He had been at school for three weeks. He had told his parents that he was gay a few weeks before leaving for school.
Ravi found writings of Clementi’s on the internet before they arrived at the dorm and tweeted when he found out his roommate is gay, writing “yay.”
Clementi asked Ravi on the two occasions in question if he could have private use of the room. Clementi reportedly saw Ravi’s webcam light on, and later complained to his resident advisor that Ravi was behaving inappropriately and that he wanted to move.
Jury selection at Middlesex Superior Court in New Brunswick is expected to take a few days and the trial could reportedly last a month.