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Published: Feb 26, 2012
Tyler Clementi Case Suicide (VIDEO) Dahrun Ravi Trial Begins
by Staff

A New Jersey judge this week dismissed 57 potential jurors in the case of a university student accused of spying on a gay roommate, leading to his suicide.

Dahrun Ravi, 19, allegedly used a webcam to spy on Tyler Clementi, 18, kissing another male student on Sept. 19, 2010. The videos were never posted online but Ravi publicly tweeted about the incident.

Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge and died three days later on September 22, 2010.

Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman excused 57 of the 190 veniremen who showed up Friday and completed a 17-page questionnaire to weed out those who had already formed an opinion in the case as jury selection got under way.

Berman also said he would decide three motions, including one dealing with an error in the indictment that could open Ravi to a longer prison term if convicted, The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported. He faces a possible 10 years in prison if convicted of intimidation.

Clementi's death struck a chord with anti-bullying and gay rights activists alike, ABC News reported. While Clementi's death has been called legally irrelevant to the case, Ravi still faces charges of invasion of privacy, witness tampering, hindering prosecution and bias intimidation.

Lawyers anticipate the case to be difficult. Ravi, who is an Indian citizen and could be deported, turned down a plea deal in December that would have spared him jail time in lieu of 600 hours of community service.

The attorney for a Ravi says the young man's actions were immature but not criminal.

Ravi is charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest.

In the opening statement Friday at Ravi's trial, defense attorney Steven Altman said Ravi was not homophobic, ABC News reported.

"You're going to see evidence that Dahrun is not homophobic, not anti-gay. Evidence that he never recorded, never broadcast images of his roommate. He never harassed his roommate, or ridiculed or spoke negatively about his roommate. He thought he was nice guy and had no problem with him," Altman said.

Altman said Ravi occasionally acted immaturely when discussing his roommate's sexuality among his friends. "He might be stupid at times, but he's 18 years old and he's certainly not criminal," Altman said.

Prosecutor Julie McClure said Ravi's efforts to watch Clementi's date with a man was planned, malicious and criminal. She said Ravi targeted and ridiculed Clementi for being gay.

The trial, which is expected to last four weeks, is expected to expose the uncertainty of the justice system when dealing with what Susan Abraham, a New York law school and former New Jersey prosecutor, called "this kind of emotional bullying. Should it be treated in criminal courts, or some other way? The problem with criminalizing these postings and the things young people do on the Internet is a lot of them don't know what the rules are. Maybe they should." (c) UPI

Here is an in-depth video news report.

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