Student in webcam suicide case 'unfazed' by sexuality

Summary:The case of a student who is accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate who later committed suicide has raised more questions concerning technology and bullying.

A core witness in the case against a student who allegedly spied on a homosexual roommate's sexual encounter, after which the victim committed suicide, apparently had no problem with his roommate's sexual orientation.

Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi, 19, is accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, 18, days before Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

The webcam was set up in 2010, and streamed Clementi and his encounter with another man. It resulted in some of the footage being shown to other students at the university, consequentially inviting gossip and rumour concerning Clementi. He committed suicide three days later.

A key witness in the case, Molly Wei, testified in a New Jersey court on Monday that she agreed to keep the incident secret as it was shocking to see the images -- although the incident soon spread through the dorm and online. Wei was part of a group of students who viewed Clementi and another man kissing 'for a few seconds' on her computer.

"First of all, it was shocking. It felt wrong. We didn't expect to see that. And now that what we did, it was like we shouldn't have seen it," Wei told jurors. "We didn't want people to know what had happened."

Wei also mentioned that Ravi knew his roommate was homosexual, but 'didn't make a big deal out of it'.

According to Wei, Ravi never intended to humiliate his roommate. It was said that as Clementi's date did not appear to be a Rutgers student, Rai believed his iPad would be stolen -- and therefore set up the webcam after Clementi asked for their shared dorm for a few hours.

Prosecutors accuse Ravi of intentionally spying on his roommate and intimidating him due to to his sexual orientation. The defense state that Ravi acted childishly but did not commit a criminal offence.

Ravi currently faces 15 criminal charges, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, and witness & evidence tampering. In exchange for 300 hours of community service, Wei has avoided being charged with two accounts of privacy invasion.

The student is not charged with causing Clementi's death, but the high-profile case has raised a number of questions about bullying and its evolving, technological methods, teenage suicide and privacy concerns -- an issue which is becoming more serious, and in which our current legal systems are struggling to keep up with.

Image credit: Juan Pablo Olmo

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About

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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