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Secret sex video linked to suicide

It started with a Twitter message Sept. 19: "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

That night, the authorities say, the Rutgers University student who sent the message used a camera in his dormitory room to stream the roommate's intimate encounter live on the Internet.

And three days later, the roommate who had been surreptitiously broadcast — Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman and an accomplished violinist — jumped from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River in a suicide.

The New Jersey Attorney General's Office is reviewing the case and will decide whether to prosecute the incident as a hate crime.

Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, and a friend of Ravi's, Molly Wei, have been charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy. Both are 18.

An emotional Gov. Chris Christie called the incident an "unspeakable tragedy" at a news conference in Trenton on Thursday.

Ravi and Wei each face a maximum five-year sentence for allegedly transmitting the footage over the Internet, a third-degree crime. Ravi faces additional fourth-degree privacy invasion charges for allegedly collecting the images.

Clementi posted a brief message on his Facebook profile on Sept. 22 announcing that he planned to leap from the bridge. His wallet was found on the bridge last Wednesday, authorities have said.

When asked about the incident at the news conference Thursday, Christie said: "As the father of a 17-year-old, I can't imagine what those parents are feeling right now, I can't. You send your son to school to get an education with great hopes and aspirations. I can't imagine what those parents are feeling. . . .

"Those people who helped to lead him to that bridge are going to have to bear that responsibility for the rest of their lives."

Ravi surrendered to Rutgers police Tuesday morning and was released on $25,000 bail. Wei was released after surrendering to Rutgers police in New Brunswick on Monday.

The suicide shocked and disturbed gay rights activists and others on campus.

"Had he been in bed with a woman, this would not have happened," said Rutgers student Lauren Felton, 21, of Warren, N.J. "He wouldn't have been outed via an online broadcast, and his privacy would have been respected and he might still have his life."

Childhood friend Mary Alcaro, who played in a summer music academy with Clementi, said he had been destined for greatness. "I've never heard anyone make a violin sing the way he did," she said.

"I'm disillusioned that in a generation that prides itself on acceptance and tolerance, people can still be so closed-minded and downright hateful," she said.

Secret sex video linked to suicide 09/30/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 30, 2010 9:06pm]
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