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Ex-Rutgers student found guilty of hate crime in webcam spy case

 

A former Rutgers University student was found guilty Friday of invasion of privacy and the hate crime of bias intimidation for using a webcam to spy on his roommate's tryst with another man before the roommate's suicide.  

Dharun Ravi, 20, sat expressionless as the guilty verdicts were read in the Middlesex County, N.J., courtroom. He also was found not guilty of some lesser counts.   

His former roommate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself in September 2010 by jumping off New York City's George Washington Bridge after learning his encounter had been caught on camera in a case that touched off a national debate on bullying.

Ravi's attorneys acknowledged to the jury that the former college student acted in a thoughtless, immature manner, they but denied he was motivated by hatred toward gays.

"He hasn't lived long enough to have any experience with homosexuality or gays," attorney Steven Altman said in closing arguments. "He doesn't know anything about it. He just graduated high school."

Prosecutors said that Ravi set up a webcam in his dorm room and captured Clementi kissing another man, then tweeted about it and excitedly tried to catch Clementi in the act again two days later. About a half-dozen students were thought to have seen the live video of the kissing.

Within days, Clementi realized he had been watched and leaped from the bridge after posting one last status update on Facebook: "Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry."

Ravi could get up to 10 years in prison, by some estimates -- and could be deported to his native India, even though he has lived legally in the U.S. since he was a little boy.

Before the trial, Ravi and his lawyers had rejected a plea bargain that would have spared him from prison. He would have gotten probation and 600 hours of community service and would have been given help in avoiding deportation.

At a courthouse news conference after the verdict, Clementi's father, Joe Clementi, addressed himself to college students and other young people, saying: "You're going to meet a lot of people in your life. Some of these people you may not like. Just because you don't like them doesn't mean you have to work against them."

Rutgers said in a statement: "This sad incident should make us all pause to recognize the importance of civility and mutual respect in the way we live, work and communicate with others."

Ravi is set to be sentenced May 21. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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