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Lawyers: ‘No sexual contact’ in Rutgers suicide webcam

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Lawyers for the two Rutgers University students charged in relation to the suicide of a gay dorm colleague say there was no sexual contact shown on the webcam the duo set up, and the video was only viewed on the computer of one of the accused.

Eighteen-year-old Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge last month after he allegedly discovered his roommate, Dharun Ravi, and hallmate, Molly Wei, were surreptitiously filming him having gay romantic encounters.

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The Newark Star-Ledger reports that lawyers for Ravi and Wei say the webcam did not depict any sexual contact and showed only kissing between two males.

“When the forensic evidence from all the seized computers is revealed, the truth will come out,” said Steve Altman, Ravi’s attorney. “Nothing was transmitted beyond one computer and what was seen was only viewed for a matter of seconds.”

The students watched the live internet feed on Wei’s computer in her room, the attorneys and friends said. It showed Clementi and another man hugging and kissing, but nothing more, they said.

“I’m unaware of any evidence of sexual contact,” said Rubin Sinins, Wei’s attorney. “The statute defining sexual contact refers to nudity and private parts, and, to my knowledge, nothing like that was seen. I’m also unaware of any evidence that any video was recorded, reproduced or disseminated in any way.”

However, that does not mean that others were not aware of the webcam’s existence, and the nature of its content. As the Star-Ledger reported earlier this month:

About 48 hours after the two teens watched the first liaison on a computer in Wei’s dorm room, Ravi invited his Twitter followers to view his roommate in a second encounter he believed would occur that evening.

The video feed of the second encounter was unsuccessful, and the next day Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

Today, the paper elaborates on the run-up to Clementi’s suicide.

Wei told friends she saw Clementi and a male visitor kissing. She described the visitor as “kind of sketchy,” with ragged clothes and a scruffy beard, Yan said.

Later on the night of Sept. 19, Ravi used his Twitter account to tell friends that he and Wei had seen his roommate “making out with a dude.” The feed went out to Ravi’s nearly 150 Twitter followers.

“He was kind of bragging. He told me, after that he told the entire hall,” said Scott Xu, 17.

However, Xu said Ravi was not known among his friends for being homophobic. He knew Clementi, his roommate, was gay and one of the first friends he made at Rutgers’ college orientation earlier in the summer was also gay, said Xu.

Clementi seemed to be aware that his roommates were filming him, the newspaper reports:

In a series of posts on a website for gay men, a user who appears to be Clementi describes finding out his roommate had secretly watched him with a webcam in his dorm room.

“[H]e went into somebody else’s room and remotely turned on his webcam and saw me making out with a guy. [G]iven the angle of the webcam I can be confident that that was all he could have seen,” the poster said.

Though the poster does not mention Rutgers, officials at the website said the computer used to post the messages can be traced back to Rutgers.

Ravi and Wei are charged with invasion of privacy over the incident. Prosecutors are reportedly still deciding on whether to charge them with a hate crime as well. The New York Daily News reports that they have withdrawn from Rutgers for the semester.


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