Live Streaming, Cyberbullying Key in Rutgers Conviction
Today (March 16) shortly before noon EDT, the jury in the trial of 20-year-old Dharun Ravi returned a guilty verdict on several of the 15 counts in his indictment. Among them were invasion of privacy and bias intimidation for recording, via webcam, his roommate, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, during a gay sexual encounter with another man in the students' shared dorm room. Clemente killed himself shortly thereafter, in September, 2010, by jumping from the George Washington Bridge in New York City.
With the bias intimidation conviction — a hate crime — the jury found that Ravi deliberately targeted Clemente to inspire fear because of his sexual orientation.
The case makes clear that surveillance via live video streaming can be an invasion of privacy. It also implies that it is a form of 'cyberbullying,' based on the terms of a plea bargain struck with Ravi's high-school friend Molly Wei, who watched Ravi's live video stream of Clemente's encounter.
Wei's testimony was key to the case. She testified against her longtime friend in a plea deal that requires her not only to perform 300 hours of community service, but also to attend a three-year program on cyberbullying — a vaguely defined concept that refers to intimidating people over the Internet, for example, via social media conversations.
Sentencing for Ravi is set for May 21. Under the charges, he could serve up to ten years in jail and be deported to his native India (though he has lived most of his life in the U.S.).
Ravi appeared calm and unemotional as the verdict was read. But gradually, while listening to follow-up conversations such as the sentencing discussion, his eyes showed distress and perhaps the first signs of tears.
Information for this report was gathered from the ABC News 7 online live stream as well as reports by CNN, ABC News and WLFI.