Trial starts for student in gay cybercrime case
NEW YORK — A New Jersey judge oversaw jury selection Tuesday in the trial of a former student accused of secretly filming a gay roommate who later committed suicide, sparking a national debate over bullying of young homosexuals.
Dahrun Ravi, born in India, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on all counts, including invasion of privacy, bias, intimidation and hindering prosecutors. The trial is expected to be aired live on television, a spokesman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said.
Prosecutors say Ravi, 19, is a homophobe who used a laptop camera to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, while he was kissing a man in their room at Rutgers University in New Jersey on September 19, 2010. He tried again two days later and allegedly invited others to watch the webcam footage, as well as messaging friends about what he’d seen.
Clementi, a talented violinist, committed suicide on September 22 when he jumped off the George Washington Bridge linking New Jersey to New York.
Ravi has pleaded not guilty and refused a plea deal, insisting that he intended no harm in what his defence says was simply a bad-taste prank. He is not charged with Clementi’s death.
Revelations since the tragedy have shown that the relationship between Ravi and Clementi was more nuanced than had been initially portrayed.
On Tuesday, the judge oversaw the narrowing down of the jury pool based on responses to written questionnaires, prosecutors’ spokesman James O’Neill said. On Wednesday, the jury selection will move to verbal questioning of the pool.
It was not clear what day lawyers would make opening statements in the trial, which could last about four weeks.