Thursday, 30 September 2010

Times: Shock as sex tape student jumps from bridge
Thursday, 30th September 2010 - 09:32CET; PA

Students spoke of their shock after a teenager committed suicide a day after two classmates secretly recorded him having sex with a man and broadcast it over the internet.

Tyler Clementi, 18, a student at New Jersey's Rutgers University, jumped from the George Washington Bridge last week, said his family's lawyer, Paul Mainardi.

Police recovered a body in the Hudson River last night and authorities were trying to determine if it was Mr Clementi.

ABC News and The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Mr Clementi left a note on his Facebook page on September 22 that read: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." Yesterday, his Facebook page was accessible only to friends.

Two Rutgers students have been charged with illegally taping Mr Clementi having sex and broadcasting the images via an internet chat programme.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of gay rights group Garden State Equality, said his group considered Mr Clementi's death a hate crime.

"We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind," Mr Goldstein said. "And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others' lives as a sport."

On the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, there was dismay over Mr Clementi's death and the circumstances that led to it.

"As a dorm we're really angry," said student Jordan Gochman, 19. "The notion that video of Tyler doing what he was doing can be considered a spectacle is just heinous.

"It's intolerant, it's upsetting, it makes it seem that being gay is something that is wrong and can be considered laughable."

One of the defendants, Dharun Ravi, was Mr Clementi's roommate, Mr Mainardi told The Star-Ledger. The other defendant is Molly Wei. Ravi and Wei could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

A lawyer for Ravi did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The Middlesex County prosecutor's office charged the pair, both 18, with two counts each of invasion of privacy, claiming they used the webcam to view and transmit a live image of Mr Clementi on September 19.

Ravi was also charged with two more counts of invasion of privacy alleging he tried to transmit another encounter of Mr Clementi on September 21.

A Twitter account belonging to a Ravi was recently deleted, but in a cached version retained through Google he sent a message on September 19: "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

Two days later, he wrote on Twitter: "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9.30 and 12. Yes it's happening again."

Mr Mainardi issued a statement yesterday confirming Mr Clementi's suicide.

"Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician," he said. "The family is heartbroken beyond words."

A Facebook group, In Honour of Tyler Clementi, was quickly set up and by yesterday had drawn more than 1,800 people, many of whom posted remembrances of Mr Clementi or expressions of shock over his death.

"You will never be forgotten Tyler," Samantha Hoffer commented. "I am so glad to have known such an amazing and talented person in my life. Rest in peace."

In a letter to the Rutgers campus, university president Richard McCormick said: "We are profoundly saddened by this report, and our hearts and prayers are with the parents, family, and friends of this young man, who had started at Rutgers this semester as a first-year student on the New Brunswick campus.

"If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university's standards of decency and humanity."

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Rutgers University President Richard McCormick released a statement regarding the suicide of freshman Tyler Clementi, and the charges against his classmates, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei.

Members of the Rutgers Community:

I deeply regret that today we learned from the family of one of our students that they believe their son has committed suicide. We are profoundly saddened by this report, and our hearts and prayers are with the parents, family, and friends of this young man, who had started at Rutgers this semester as a first-year student on the New Brunswick campus.

While there is a lot of information being communicated, we don’t have all the facts in this case.

This young man was reportedly the victim of an incident that took place in one of our residence halls last week.

Two fellow Rutgers students have been arrested and charged with invasion of privacy for their actions in that incident. If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university’s standards of decency and humanity.

The case is being investigated by the Rutgers University Police Department. The students—like all who are accused of a crime—must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The case is also being investigated by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs under the code of student conduct. Please know that while Rutgers does not comment publicly on the specifics of cases involving active criminal investigations and allegations of student conduct, the university is taking this case very seriously.

We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family during this most difficult time. While I did not have the privilege of knowing this young man, I have learned that in addition to his academic abilities, he was a gifted musician. Our university community feels the pain of his loss, and I know there is anger and outrage about these events.

Rutgers is a community that is extraordinarily proud of its diversity and the respect its members have for one another. In fact, we have just launched a two-year dialogue focusing attention on civility in the context of one of the most culturally and racially diverse research universities in the nation. I ask that all members of the Rutgers community honor the wishes of the family by providing them with privacy during this painful time and by committing to the values of civility, dignity, compassion, and respect for each other.

Richard L. McCormick
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

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