updated 10/6/2010 5:52:23 PM ET 2010-10-06T21:52:23

A lawyer for a university student accused of webcasting a gay sexual encounter involving his roommate, who later committed suicide, says he's confident his client won't be charged with a bias crime.

Steven D. Altman, who represents Rutgers University freshman Dharun Ravi, issued a statement Wednesday saying he was "heartened to hear" that investigators are taking their time "to learn all the facts before rushing to judgment" about whether to file bias charges following the roommate's suicide leap off a bridge. Altman said he hoped the public would do the same.

"I am confident that nothing will be learned to justify, warrant or support the filing of any bias criminal complaint," Altman said.

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Ravi, 18, and another Rutgers freshman, Molly Wei, also 18, are charged with invasion of privacy.

Ravi's roommate, freshman Tyler Clementi, 18, jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River on Sept. 22, and his body was identified days later.

The death of Clementi, a promising violinist, has prompted a national discussion on the plight of young gay people and bullying. New Jersey's U.S. senators, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, were scheduled to attend a town meeting addressing those issues Wednesday night on the Rutgers campus.

Clementi's death was one of a string of suicides last month involving teens believed to have been victims of anti-gay bullying. Just days after Clementi's body was recovered, more than 500 people attended a memorial service for a 13-year-old central California boy, Seth Walsh, who hanged himself after enduring taunts from classmates about being gay.

'Tragic situation'
Middlesex County prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said earlier this week that he wouldn't rush the investigation into Clementi's death. His spokesman said Wednesday there was nothing new to report.

Attorneys for Wei released a statement Tuesday saying she was innocent and extending sympathy to the Clementi family.

"This is a tragic situation," the statement said. "But this tragedy has also unfairly led to rampant speculation and misinformation, which threaten to overwhelm the actual facts of the matter. Those true facts will reveal that Molly is innocent."

Story: Lawyers: Student in sex video case is innocent

Ravi, of Plainsboro, and Wei, of Princeton, each could face up to five years in prison if convicted on the invasion of privacy charge.

Clementi's family has said little. In a statement last week, it said it hoped the tragedy would "serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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

Data: Tormented teens


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