A former Rutgers University student accused of watching a surreptitious webcast of a classmate's same-sex liaison is seeking to avoid a criminal record. The classmate later committed suicide.
Molly Wei, a 19-year-old from West Windsor, applied to enter a pretrial intervention program last month. If she's accepted into the program, a judge could set conditions, such as staying out of legal trouble, doing community service and maintaining a job or attending school. If she meets those conditions for a specified time period _ it could be up to three years, though one year is the usual period _ the charges would be dropped.
Wei is charged with two counts of invasion of privacy and could receive a five-year prison sentence if she's convicted. Such a long sentence would be unusual for a first-time offender.
Prosecutors see her as the lesser suspect in an alleged crime that's linked to a tragedy.
Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, hours after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, allegedly tried to watch a second encounter between Clementi and a man via webcam from Wei's computer.
Clementi's death sparked national conversations about bullying and suicides by young gays and lesbians.
Ravi was indicted last week on 15 counts. The most serious charge was bias intimidation, which alleges he acted because Clementi was gay. A conviction could mean he'd spend up to 10 years in prison on that charge alone.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan has said that Wei's case is not planned to be presented to a grand jury. That could indicate that either a plea deal is being struck or she's heading for the pretrial intervention program.
It's common for people who do not have criminal records and are accused of low-level crimes to apply for the program. The applications are not considered public records.
She could be accepted if the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office and pretrial intervention program officials agree. She would also need a judge's approval to enter the program.
Her application was first reported by The Home News Tribune of East Brunswick.
Her lawyer, Rubin Sinins would not comment on the case but did not dispute the report.
James O'Neill, a spokesman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, said that Wei's case remains active but would not comment further.
Wei and Ravi both left Rutgers soon after they were charged.
Information from: Home News Tribune, http://www.mycentraljersey.com