Invasion of Privacy Assignment
Please read the following article. After, write a one-page reflection paper guided by the following questions.
• What would it be like to have your activities in your private residence video recorded without your knowledge?
• What would it be like to have those recordings released publicly?
• While this is an example of extreme consequences, it is a factual case – and sadly not the only one of its kind. What is it like to consider that violating someone’s privacy could lead to consequences such as the person to take their own life? What would you feel afterward if you had been the one to set the chain of events in motion?
• Can you think of behaviors, including pranks, which have the potential to go too far? Do these often involve compromising someone’s privacy?
Clementi Family, via Associated Press
Updated: March 16, 2012
Tyler Clementi was an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman who killed himself in September 2010 after discovering that his roommate had secretly used a webcam to stream Mr. Clementi’s romantic interlude with another man over the Internet.
The suicide of Mr. Clementi, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge, focused national attention on the victimization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. Public figures including Ellen DeGeneres and President Obama spoke out about the tragedy, and New Jersey legislators enacted the nation’s toughest law against bullying and harassment in January 2011. Rutgers also responded in several ways, among them a plan to introduce gender-neutral housing — co-ed dorm rooms for gay, lesbian and transgender students who request it — and training staff in suicide awareness.
In late February 2012, Dharun Ravi, 20, his roommate, went on trial at Middlesex Superior Court, charged with 15 counts, including bias intimidation — a hate crime that was based on the victim’s sexual orientation — and invasion of privacy. He was not charged in Mr. Clementi’s death.
On March 16, Mr. Ravi was found guilty on all counts, including tampering with evidence and a witness and hindering apprehension. The jury found that he did not intend to intimidate Mr. Clementi the first night he turned on the webcam to watch. But the jury concluded that Mr. Clementi had reason to believe he had been targeted because he was gay, and in one charge, the jury found that Mr. Ravi had known Mr. Clementi would feel intimidated by his actions.
Mr. Ravi could get years in prison — and could be deported to his native India, even though he has lived legally in the United States since he was a little boy — for his part in an act that cast a spotlight on teen suicide and anti-gay bullying and illustrated the Internet’s potential for tormenting others.
Prosecutors said Mr. Ravi, motivated by antigay sentiment, intentionally set out to embarrass Mr. Clementi.
Mr. Ravi’s lawyers portrayed him as a young man who may have acted foolishly, but was not homophobic and did not intend to hurt his roommate. They said he was suspicious of Mr. Clementi’s boyfriend and was worried that the man might steal his computer, so he set up his webcam to keep an eye on his belongings. His lawyers said that he was “a kid” with little experience of homosexuality who had stumbled into a situation that scared him. Mr. Ravi, they argued, was being sarcastic when he had sent messages daring friends to connect to his webcam, or declaring that he was having a “viewing party.”
But prosecutors argued that his frequent messages mentioning Mr. Clementi’s sexuality proved that Mr. Ravi was upset about having a gay roommate from the minute he discovered it through a computer search several weeks before they arrived at Rutgers in fall 2010.
The star witness in the case was “M.B.,’’ the young man whose date with Mr. Clementi was captured by Mr. Ravi’s webcam. The full name of M.B., who appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s, was withheld to protect his privacy.
M.B. testified that as he and his new boyfriend lay naked on Mr. Clementi’s bed, he sensed he was being spied on. “I just happened to glance over,” the man said. “It just caught my eye that there was, you know, a camera lens looking directly at me.”
As he left the room that night, he testified, a group of students were standing nearby, joking and looking at him in a way that unsettled him. He wanted to see his new boyfriend again — they had been exchanging e-mails for weeks now, but had had only three dates, and were texting furiously in the hopes of setting up another one. But he was not sure he would return to the dorm. “I felt a little uneasy about it,” he said.
Ravi Posted Twitter Feeds and Texts
An investigator testified that as Mr. Ravi posted Twitter feeds about using a webcam to see Mr. Clementi in a sexual encounter with another man, one of those reading intently was Mr. Clementi. In the two days before he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge, Mr. Clementi checked Mr. Ravi’s Twitter account 38 times, said the investigator, Detective Gary Charydczak of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
Detective Charydczak said that in the early hours of Sept. 21, Mr. Clementi saved a screenshot of a Twitter post that Mr. Ravi had sent two days earlier; it read: “Roommate asked for the room until midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”
That night, Mr. Clementi saved a screen shot of another Twitter post from Mr. Ravi, which read: “I dare you to chat me between the hours of 9:30 and midnight. Yes, it’s happening again.”
Detective Charydczak testified that Mr. Ravi’s hard drive showed that he later edited that post to read, “Don’t you dare chat me.” After Mr. Clementi died, Mr. Ravi added a Twitter post in response to the one he had sent on Sept. 19. The new post read: “Everyone ignore that last tweet. Stupid drafts.”
Michelle Huang, who had known Mr. Ravi in high school and was also a student at Rutgers, testified that he had sent her a text message about “keep the gays away” and urged her to watch a feed from a webcam that he had trained on the bed where he expected Mr. Clementi to have a tryst with another man.
Earlier in the trial, a Rutgers employee testified that Mr. Clementi had submitted a request online to be transferred to a single room. On the form, which was sent electronically around 4 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2010, Mr. Clementi wrote that he wanted to move because “roommate used webcam to spy on me.” However, Judge Glenn Berman did not allow that statement into evidence, ruling that it was hearsay.
Other Rutgers Students Testify During the Trial
Molly Wei, a friend of Mr. Ravi who joined him in spying on Mr. Clementi, was originally charged in the case. Her charges were dropped in exchange for testifying for the prosecution, performing 300 hours of community service and attending counseling for cyberbullying.
During the trial, Ms. Wei said that three days before Mr. Clementi leapt to his death, she twice watched him on her laptop computer kissing another man inside the dorm room that he shared with Mr. Ravi.
Ms. Wei said Mr. Ravi was concerned that his iPad might be stolen from the room because Mr. Clementi had asked him to leave for a few hours while he was alone with a man, whom Ms. Wei recalled Mr. Ravi describing as “an older, shabbier-looking guy.” From Ms. Wei’s room across the hall, they turned on Mr. Ravi’s webcam and for a few seconds saw Mr. Clementi kissing the other man before they turned off the camera.
Ms. Wei, who had known Mr. Ravi since middle school, testified that she had never before seen two men kissing. She said that despite being “freaked out” over viewing “something we shouldn’t have seen,” she later turned Mr. Ravi’s webcam back on to show the scene to her roommate and three female friends.
Ms. Wei testified that Mr. Ravi had told her that he suspected his roommate was gay.
Lokesh Ojha, another student, testified that Mr. Ravi pulled him away from a game of foosball in a dormitory lounge on the university’s Piscataway campus on Sept. 21 and told him that his webcam had captured Mr. Clementi kissing a man.
The two then went to Mr. Ojha’s room, he said, where Mr. Ravi, knowing that Mr. Clementi had invited his date over again that night, set up the iChat function on Mr. Ojha’s laptop to test that the webcam was directed at Mr. Clementi’s bed.
Mr. Ojha said that Mr. Ravi encouraged him to send text messages to other friends to alert them to watch his Twitter feed, where he told them to turn on their computers to watch the webcam feed.
Mr. Ravi was initially charged with invasion of privacy. The grand jury also charged him with a cover-up. The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office said he had deleted a Twitter post that alerted others to watch a second sexual encounter that Mr. Clementi planned and replaced it with a post “intended to mislead the investigation.” Prosecutors said Mr. Ravi had also tried to persuade witnesses not to testify.
Mr. Ravi was charged with additional counts of attempted invasion of privacy for trying to carry out a second live transmission. The authorities said he tried to use the camera a second time and boasted on Twitter that he had seen his roommate “making out with a dude.” That attempt was thwarted after Mr. Clementi found the camera aimed at his bed.
After discovering that his roommate had spied on him, authorities said, Mr. Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010.
Anonymous postings that appear to have come from Mr. Clementi, identified after his death in the forums of a gay chat site, show a student wrestling with his rising indignation over a breach of privacy and trying to figure out how best to respond.
Classmates say Mr. Clementi, an aspiring violinist from Ridgewood, N.J., mostly kept to himself. Danielle Birnbohm, a freshman who lived across the hall from him in Davidson Hall, said that when a counselor asked how many students had known Mr. Clementi, only 3 students out of 50 raised their hands.
The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Mr. Clementi posted a note on his Facebook page the day of his death: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” Friends and strangers turned the page into a memorial.
On March 16, 2012, Ravi was convicted on all 15 counts for his role in the webcam spying incidents. On May 21, 2012, Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 3 years probation, 300 hours of community service, a $10,000 fine, and counseling on cyberbullying and alternative lifestyles. Both the prosecutors and Ravi filed separate appeals. On June 18, 2012, Ravi was released from jail after 20 days of his sentence. Federal immigration authorities said that Ravi would not be deported to India.
In February 2016, Ravi asked the courts to overturn his convictions following a 2015 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that struck down as unconstitutionally vague a part of the law under which he was charged. In September 2016, the convictions were overturned by an appeals court in New Jersey, in a decision supported by prosecutors because of the earlier ruling on constitutionality. A request to maintain the convictions for other crimes, such as invasion of privacy and witness tampering, was denied because of the influence bias allegations. Ravi accepted a plea deal on October 27, 2016, and pleaded guilty to one count of attempted invasion of privacy, a third-degree felony. He was sentenced to time already served and fines paid, and the remaining charges against him were dropped.