It is a case built around many indisputable facts, most gleaned from the text messages, emails, and tweets that define the way a generation now communicates.
But there are few clear answers in the disturbing account of how Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi’s sexual encounter with a man in his dorm room was secretly viewed via his roommate’s computer webcam.
The incident has become the focus of international discussion about cyber-bullying and the difficulties faced by gay youth, a cause celebre fueled by intense media attention.
Yet defense attorneys for Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, say that spotlight has distorted and helped to criminalize what, at worst, were insensitive acts by their client.
The criminal prosecution is inextricably linked to Clementi’s decision to take his life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010.
But the suicide has nothing to do with the charges against Ravi, which focus on his motivation and role in events that took place in Davidson Hall on the Piscataway, N.J., campus in the days leading up to Clementi’s death.
Ravi, 19, of Plainsboro, N.J., has been charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and tampering with evidence. He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on bail.
The case moved a step closer to trial Friday when Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman rejected a defense motion seeking to have all charges dropped. Berman is expected to set a trial date at a hearing Oct. 20.
The defense motions and the prosecution’s response were supported by hundreds of pages of evidence, including emails, text messages and Twitter messages sent by Clementi and Ravi; testimony of law enforcement investigators; and statements from Rutgers students, including Ravi and Molly Wei, who–like Ravi–has left Rutgers. Wei, who was a fellow freshman, is charged in the case with invasion of privacy and is cooperating with authorities.
Rarely has so much information been publicly available before the start of a trial.
Here, based on those documents, is a look at some of the key issues and individuals who have surfaced in the investigation on which the case against Ravi is built.