As the uproar surrounding the suicide of 18-year-old Rutgers student Tyler Clementi escalates, prosecutors are considering whether they can charge the students who broadcast video of Tyler making out with a man before his death with a hate crime.
A spokesman for New Jersey Attorney General Paul Dow told the Newark Star-Ledger that their office is "still collecting evidence" to figure out whether they would prosecute fellow Rutgers freshmen Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei for "bias intimidation," a hate crime. Ravi, who was Clementi's roommate, tweeted about using a webcam to spy on Clementi "making out with a dude," then offered to broadcast Clementi's next encounter to "anyone with iChat." Close to 10,000 people have joined the "Manslaughter charges for Dharun Ravi & Molly Wei" page on Facebook; prosecutors have yet to comment on that demand.
Today Clementi's family announced that their son's funeral would be private. "Needless to say, public attention has been intense," they said in a written statement, asking for privacy and thanking friends and the public for their support. "Regardless of legal outcomes, our hope is that our family's personal tragedy will serve as a call for compassion, empathy, and human dignity."
But with nobody with direct knowledge of the events preceding Tyler's death talking, both his and his tormentors' motives remain unclear. Did Clementi take his life as a direct result of Dharun Ravi's webcam ambushes? Were Ravi and Wei motivated by homophobia—and did they really play equal roles in the crime? Currently Ravi and Wei face the same invasion of privacy charges; each could face up to five years in jail.
Finally—and perhaps unknowably—what happened in the time between these calm comment board posts, an uneventful orchestra rehearsal ("I couldn't tell if anything was wrong," said the violinist who shared a stand with Clementi in Rutgers Symphony Orchestra), and the fatal jump? [image via]
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