A court has overturned the convictions of a man who broadcast his closeted roommate’s gay sex sessions online.
Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, jumped from the George Washington Bridge in 2010, after his roommate secretly recorded webcam footage of him kissing another man.
Roommate Dharun Ravi was in 2012 found guilty on 15 counts including invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension, witness tampering, and four bias intimidation counts – but the jury concluded the crimes were not motivated by sexual orientation. Ravi served just 20 days in jail.
However, Ravi’s lawyers returned to court this year in a bid to quash the convictions, and successfully argued for his convictions to be thrown out.
The lawyers used a technicality to argue that all 15 of the convictions were void, with the court today finding that “the evidence the State presented to prove” one contested charge had “tainted the jury’s verdict” across the whole case.
Despite quashing the convictions, the court did criticise Ravi for his actions.
“His criminal conduct was directed against his then college roommate, T.C., and M.B., a man T.C. invited to his dorm room on two occasions to engage in intimate and indisputably private sexual activity.
“The State’s case was based on defendant’s opprobrium of T.C.’s sexual orientation. The State alleged that defendant used his technological prowess to effectively convert the video webcam attached to his desktop computer into the functional equivalent of an electronic peephole.
“Thereafter, defendant adroitly used social media tools to disseminate the time he planned to spy on T.C, as well as broadcast (or attempt to broadcast) a live video feed of T.C. having consensual sexual relations with a male guest in the dorm room he shared with defendant.
“Tragically, T.C. committed suicide after he discovered defendant’s voyeuristic machinations. The sense of loss associated with a young man taking his own life defies our meager powers of reason and tests our resolve to seek consolation.
“From a societal perspective, this case has exposed some of the latent dangers concealed by the seemingly magical powers of the internet.
“The implications associated with the misuse of our technological advancements lies beyond this court’s competency to address.
“Defendant was not charged with causing or contributing to T.C.’s death.
“However, the social environment that transformed a private act of sexual intimacy into a grotesque voyeuristic spectacle must be unequivocally condemned in the strongest possible way.
“The fact that this occurred in a university dormitory, housing first-year college students, only exacerbates our collective sense of disbelief and disorientation.
“All of the young men and women who had any association with this tragedy must pause to reflect and assess whether this experience has cast an indelible moral shadow on their character.”
By Nick Duffy