Image: Tyler Clementi
Sam Fran Scavuzzo  /  AP
This June 2010 photo provided by the Ridgewood Patch shows Tyler Clementi, left, hugging a fellow student during his 2010 graduation from Ridgewood High School in Ridgewood, N.J.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 10/1/2010 5:36:22 PM ET 2010-10-01T21:36:22

The college freshman who jumped to his death after two other teens allegedly streamed online video of his sexual encounter with another man had turned to university staff to help deal with the situation before his suicide, according to messages he is believed to have posted online.

After 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi became aware of the alleged broadcast from posts on roommate Dharun Ravi's social networking sites, he told a resident adviser (RA) about the problem, according to posts attributed to him in forums on the gay website JustUsBoys.com.

On Sept. 22, user cit2mo, widely reported as being Clementi, wrote that his RA "seemed to take it seriously ... he asked me to email him a written paragraph about what exactly happened ... I emailed it to him, and to two people above him...."

There was no indication as to who the two people above the resident adviser were, and whether they received an e-mail from Clementi.

It was later that same day that Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York. The last known Internet post from him was a brief message on his Facebook page: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." Police recovered Clementi's body from the water on Wednesday.

Rutgers spokesman Greg Trevor told msnbc.com the university would not discuss specifics of the case.

University President Richard McCormick said in a statement that a candlelight vigil will be held Sunday evening on campus for Clementi. He also said he would meet with student leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"This tragedy and the events surrounding it have raised critical questions about the climate of our campuses. Students, parents, and alumni have expressed deep concern that our university, which prides itself on its rich diversity, is not fully welcoming and accepting of all students," McCormick said.

"They have expressed to me and to other Rutgers faculty and administrators the urgent need for every student to be able to live and study without fear of intimidation, discrimination, or threats to their privacy."

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Clementi's family issued a statement Friday through lawyer Paul Mainardi asking for privacy "in this painful time."

"We understand that our family's personal tragedy presents important legal issues for the country as well as for us. Regardless of legal outcomes, our hope is that our family's personal tragedy will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity," the statement said.

The family said funeral services will be private.

While it's not possible to be certain that Clementi wrote the posts in the discussion forum, they mirror the same timeline as the alleged filming and reflect the anguish someone in that situation might have felt. Forbes.com cited a postfrom Ravi's now-defunct Twitter account that indicated he learned of his roommate's sexuality from other JustUsBoys posts by that user, which he linked to from the tweet.

The website Gawker first reported on the online discussions. Under cit2mo's name on the JustUsBoys forum now reads the line, "In Loving Memory."

The user started the discussion thread on Sept. 21 by explaining how he found out about the alleged video streaming from checking his roommate's Twitter feed. The writer then proposed ideas as to how he should handle the situation and asked for advice on what to do next.

He expressed anger with the roommate and noted that he seemed to have had an audience during the encounter.

'He was spying on me'
"And so I feel like it was 'look at what a fag my roommate is,'" the cit2mo post said. "Other people have commented on his profile with things like 'how did you manage to go back in there? 'are you ok?'" The user also pointed out that people seemed to focus on his encounter, instead of the roommate's spying.

"...i mean come on...he was SPYING ON ME....do they see nothing wrong with this?" the post said.

At that point, the cit2mo message indicated that he had decided to fill out a form requesting a room change.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 22, cit2mo described the situation the night before, saying he texted his roommate to asking for privacy in advance. He said that when he returned to his room, he noticed the roommate's webcam had been turned to face his bed and said the roommate again promoted the "free show." It was at that point that cit2mo "ran to the nearest RA and set this thing in motion."

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That day, Ravi posted to his 148 Twitter followers, "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again," the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported.

The JustUsBoys user said he simply continued as planned, but unplugged his roommate's computer first. His next post indicated that he'd also recorded images of the roommate's Twitter feed.

In previous posts on the same thread, cit2mo described his research into his school's privacy policy, and noted it said that recording someone in a place where they would expect privacy could result in expulsion.

"The only things is...there are too many 'could's ....the fact that he didn't ACTUALLY record me (to my knowledge) and the fact that the school really prolly won't do much of anything...."

He said he'd mention the incident to his RA before writing, "and yah, revenge never ends well for me, as much as I would love to pour pink paint all over his stuff.....that would just let him win....."

Charges against roommate, friend
Ravi, of Plainsboro, and Molly W. Wei, of Princeton, both 18, have been charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy. Ravi also is charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for attempting to use the camera to view and transmit another encounter involving the student two days later.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan said Thursday that his department's investigation was continuing and that more charges were possible under New Jersey's hate-crimes law.

"We will be making every effort to assess whether bias played a role in the incident, and, if so, we will bring appropriate charges," he said in a statement.

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Motive is at the core of the possible new charges. A person can be found guilty of a bias crime in New Jersey if the jury agrees that he or she committed a crime because of a belief that the victim is a member of a protected group, such as homosexuals or a racial minority.

Ravi's lawyer has not responded to requests for comment. Messages left with an attorney believed to be representing Wei were not returned.

High school friends of the suspects, both 2010 graduates of West Windsor-Plainsboro High, say the suspects have no issue with gay people.

"He had gay friends," Derek Yan, 16, told The Associated Press of Ravi. Yan said that he chatted online with his former schoolmate about college life in recent weeks. "He said he was lucky to have a good roommate," Yan said. "He said his roommate was cool."

'I would never expect this'
Numerous websites have popped up in defense of the suspects, with some proclaiming their innocence or calling their alleged actions a prank. Other sites, however, were dedicated to criticizing the suspects or calling for stiffer charges, including manslaughter.

The comments on the pages are emotional and sometimes vitriolic. Some postings call the suspects "sickos" and "cold-blooded killers" while others contain homophobic and racist content (both suspects are of Asian heritage), even thanking the suspects for their possible role in a gay man's death.

Luanne Peterpaul, who has worked as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer and serves as the vice chairwoman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said bias crimes can be hard to prove.

She said prosecutors should look at evidence including the Twitter messages Ravi may have used to alert friends to the alleged video. She said that there might be clues as to his intent.

Peterpaul said she believes that filming a man and a woman engaged in sex in a dorm room would not have had the same results.

"It's quite possible that maybe they would have videotaped an opposite-sex couple," she said. "But would there have been such a following?"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Student’s suicide probed as hate crime

  1. Closed captioning of: Student’s suicide probed as hate crime

    >>> let's begin this half hour with prosecutors now looking into filing more serious charges against the two rutgers university students who are accused of streaming video of another student's sexual encounter online.

    >> reporter: good morning, matt. there's a growing chorus that's saying that the incident that was involved wasn't just an act of video voyeurism or cyber bullying , but of cyber gay bashing , but one of the suspects reportedly says not so. it has now been confirmed that the body pulled from the hudson river was that of tyler clementi , who wrote on his facebook page, jumping off the gw bridge , sorry. this encounter was streamed live over the internet. two classmates have been charged with privacy law violations, but the count prosecutor says they'll be making every effort to assess whether bias played a role in the incident.

    >> privacy violations are --

    >> meanwhile the respected rutgers college newspaper reports that unnamed students say on the night of the incident, a strange older male arrived at the room robby shared with clementi and that robby had no intention of witnessing any kind of intimate encounter. he just wanted to know what was going on in his room and quickly looked at the webcam that he had left on. but one of the suspects told nbds after listening to the reading of the account, that is basically the story robby is telling. but there's been no denial that robby tweeted that clementi was making out with a dude, yay. however this happened, the death of this gifted student has left fellow students to wonder how tech savvy students could still be confused about what technology can do and what it should not do.

    >> especially with the generation that has grown one the internet, they might not bay ware of the repercussions of their actions.

    >> reporter: the lawyers for the two suspects are not comments. but someone who appears to be clementi wrote several posts on a gay website who was wrestling with what to do about a roommate who was spying on him with a webcam.

    >> dan abrams is nbc's chief legal analyst, dan, good morning to you, we already know that they have been charged with a couple of counts of invasion of privacy. but now we're hearing more about hate crime charges. are these charges coming from a solid legal place or are they coming from an emotional place?

    >> it's going to depend on the facts, there's two types of charges, there's the fourth-degree felony which is for filming the activity without the consent of the person. the more serious one, the third-degree is for distributing it. so now some are saying the prosecutors should add something on to that third-degree felony. if they can determine it was a hate crime , meaning intended to intimidate the person based on sexual orientation , they could up the possible sentence here from up to five years to up to ten years.

    >> but it's a big if and how do they go about connecting those dots.

    >> they're going to need more than just the text that we just read about him, quote, being a gay -- about making out. they're going to need to know that the reason that he did it, that his intent here was to intimidate him based on sexual orientation . that's going to be tough legally in a case like this. a lot of people are going to say wait a second, what do you mean it's going to be tough? look at the facts of what happened. the facts are one thing, but as a legal matter, you're going to have to show the intent of the person who was doing it.

    >> let me ask you how this might play into all of this. according to a report in the new york times t roommate danger robby tweeted back in august, this is well in advance of this going on that he, quote, just found out my roommate is gay, end quote. so now he has information, he then subsequently goes out setting up this webcam to record or distribute this encounter, does that play into it?

    >> it will be part of the totality of the circumstances. but basically they're going to have to show this was more than just a prank, right? because if it's a prank, the charges that are out there are the right charges. if it's more than a prank, meaning the reason he's doing it is because of the sexuality of his roommate, then you've got the possibility of the elevateded charges.

    >> it would be the state of new jersey bringing the hate crime charges.

    >> that's right.

    >> if the state decides not to go further and file those charges, could a federal prosecutor come in? because that's happened in the past and say no, we believe this is a biassed crime.

    >> theoretically, but probably not in this case. but by definition, in the federal law for a hate crime there has to have been violence involved and that would be even tougher to prove in a case like this. remember, new jersey has a pretty tough hate crime law meaning the burden is lower than for the federal crime , if new jersey doesn't go for it, very unlikely that the feds will.

    >> dan abrams , it's 7:36, let's

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