Jury reconvenes in Rutgers roommate spying case

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 16, 2012 11:34 AM
Jury reconvenes in Rutgers roommate spying case

By Jonathan Allen and Aman Ali

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A jury on Friday began a third day of deliberations to decide whether a former Rutgers University student committed a hate crime when he used a webcam to spy on his college roommate kissing another man.

The case put a national spotlight on gay bullying when the roommate committed suicide days later.

Twelve jurors are weighing 15 charges against Dharun Ravi, including bias intimidation, which carries a possible 10-year prison sentence, and lesser crimes of invasion of privacy and witness tampering that do not entail prison time for a first offender.

The panel deliberated for 10 hours total on Wednesday and Thursday and began anew about 9 a.m. on Friday.

Ravi, now 20, is not charged in the death of Tyler Clementi, 18, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010, after learning his freshman roommate covertly saw him kissing another man and appeared to encourage others to watch through a camera on Ravi's computer.

To convict Ravi of bias intimidation, Judge Glenn Berman said jurors will have to decide Ravi singled out Clementi because he was gay.

The seven women and five men on the jury, who appear to range in age from their 20s to 70s, were urged in summations by defense lawyer Steven Altman to dismiss Ravi's actions as those of a foolish child trying to impress others rather than a bully who harbored a prejudice against gays.

Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure in her closing statement said Ravi's messages about Clementi on Twitter and other social media, including one inviting others to a "viewing party" through a webcam aimed at Clementi's bed after he asked for the room alone, showed his animosity toward his gay roommate.

Clementi checked Ravi's Twitter account 38 times in the two days before he killed himself, the prosecution told the jury.

While the lesser charges do not carry prison sentences, if convicted Ravi, who is not a U.S. citizen, could be deported to India, where he was born.

(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Daniel Trotta)