Wednesday, September 29, 2010

RIP Tyler Clementi

I am so thankful that I did not come of age in the days of web cams and the rumor mongering of social network sites.  This is by no stretch the only case of something like this happening, but it is no less tragic or depressing.

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Victim of Secret Dorm Sex Tape Posts Facebook Goodbye, Jumps to His Death 
Rutgers University Freshman Jumped From the George Washington Bridge
By EMILY FRIEDMAN

A Rutgers University freshman posted a goodbye message on his Facebook page before jumping to his death after his roommate secretly filmed him during a "sexual encounter" in his dorm room and posted it live on the Internet.

Items belonging to 18-year-old Rutgers student Tyler Clementi were found by the George Washington Bridge last week, according to authorities. Clementi's freshman ID card and driver's license were in the wallet. 

Clementi's post on his Facebook page, dated Sept. 22 at 8:42 p.m. read, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." 

Clementi's body has not been recovered, but police have pulled an unidentified male body from the Hudson River just north of the bridge. 

Paul Mainardi, the attorney representing the Clementi family, released a statement confirming Clementi's suicide. 

"Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician. The family is heartbroken beyond words. They respectfully request that they be given time to grieve their great loss and that their privacy at this painful time be respected by all," Mainardi said. 

Two students, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, have been charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy after allegedly placing a camera in Clementi's room and livestreaming the recording online on Sept. 19, according to a written statement by New Jersey's Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan.

A Twitter page that appears to have been operated by Ravi but has since been taken offline shows messages in which the accused student takes credit for the alleged videotaping of Clementi. 

On Sept. 19, Ravi appears to tweet, "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." 

Ravi faces two additional counts of invasion of privacy for allegedly attempting to use the camera to view and transmit another sexual encounter involving the same student just two days later, said Kaplan. 

On Sept. 21 Ravi posted, "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again."

Clementi's lawyer said the family is cooperating with the ongoing criminal investigation into Ravi and Wei's alleged actions. 

"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," said Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick in a statement. "The case is also being investigated by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs under the code of student conduct." 

"Rutgers is a community that is extraordinarily proud of its diversity and the respect its members have for one another." 

A Facebook memorial group created in honor of Clementi already has hundreds of members, many of whom are fellow graduates of Ridgewood High School in New Jersey. Clementi had graduated Ridgewood this past spring. 

One of Tyler's friends, Courtney Ayukawa, posted to the group's wall, "I will always remember everything from our preschool's Halloween party to your amazing musical talents. When you picked up the violin and began to play, it was as if everything just paused until you put it down again. We will never forget you Tyler. May you rest in peace." 

Strangers have also contributed to the memorial page, one writing simply, "R.I.P from a stranger."

Michael Zhuang, a friend of Ravi's for six years, describes the suspect as someone into computer programming and video games. 

Zhuang told ABC News he believes Ravi was excited to go to Rutgers and believes the media portrayals of Ravi as possibly homophobic or a serious prankster are not true. "I'm in shock, I didn't expect this to happen and I am just speechless. He's normally very nice and I don't think that this is a representation of him," said Zhuang. "He's very very open minded and he, like if it had been a girl in the room it wouldn't have been any different," he said.

Jim O'Neill, the public information officer for prosecutor's office, declined to comment on the case. 

Both Wei and Ravi surrendered to police. Wei has been released on her own recognizance and Ravi posted $25,000 bail.

Under New Jersey's invasion-of-privacy statutes, it is a fourth degree crime to collect or view images depicting nudity or sexual contact involving another individual without that person's consent, and it is a third degree crime to transmit or distribute such images. The penalty for conviction of a third degree offense can include a prison term of up to five years. 

Lawyers for both Wei and Ravi did not respond to messages left by ABC News. 

ABC News' Aaron Katarsky, Shimon Prokupecz and Ayana Harry contributed to this story.
http://abcnews.go.com/US/victim-secret-dorm-sex-tape-commits-suicide/story?id=11758716
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The Gawker comments presented the dilemma of past cases in which peoples' private lives were revealed for all the world to see.  The difference here to me is that Mr. Clementi never asked to have his private life video-streamed for us to see (and put there by a roommate who advertised it without Clementi's knowledge).  How many people would like to have their lives put out there, particularly if you are gay, and in a society that still (even in this age of Glee) has homophobic strains?  Just look at the comments on the poster's Twitter page, treating Mr. Clementi almost as if he was diseased and Mr. Ravi as the victim of a terrible crime.  That is the dehumanizing process of what bigotry does to us and it permeates so much of our culture even today.   And it is that hateful world that helped make possible the coerced loss of a young man's life.

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