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Student secretly taped having sex kills self

A college student jumped to his death off a bridge a day after authorities say two classmates surreptitiously recorded him having sex with a man in his dorm room and broadcast it over the Internet.
Tyler Clementi, left, is thought to have committed suicide, days after video of him was secretly webcast on the Internet. Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, center, and another classmate, Molly Wei, have been charged in the case.
Tyler Clementi, left, is thought to have committed suicide, days after video of him was secretly webcast on the Internet. Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, center, and another classmate, Molly Wei, have been charged in the case. The Star-Ledger
/ Source: NBC, and news services

A college student jumped to his death off a bridge a day after two classmates surreptitiously recorded him having sex with a man in his dorm room and broadcast it over the Internet, authorities said Wednesday.

The Rutgers freshman, Tyler Clementi, jumped off the George Washington Bridge last Thursday, the Clementi family's attorney, Paul Mainardi, confirmed on Wednesday.

New York Police Department harbor officers recovered the body of a white man, clad only in pants, wearing a watch and without identification after a parks department employee spotted a body floating in the river, police said. The body was taken to the city medical examiner's office; authorities hoped to use the watch as identification.

Clementi's driver's license and Rutgers ID were found in a wallet left on the bridge on Sept. 22 after two witnesses saw someone jump from it, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

ABC News and The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Clementi left on his Facebook page on Sept. 22 a note that read: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." On Wednesday, his Facebook page was accessible only to friends.

News of the death came on the same day that Rutgers kicked off a two-year, campuswide project to teach the importance of civility, with special attention to bullying and the use and abuse of new technology, The New York Times reported.

Under the aegis of that project, students, faculty and other employees have been encouraged to attend a series of lectures, presentations and discussions exploring such topics as how cell phones, iPods and other gadgets affect civility, and sportsmanship for athletes and fans.

"Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician," Mainardi said. "The family is heartbroken beyond words."

Two fellow Rutgers freshmen, Dharun Ravi, of Plainsboro, and Molly W. Wei, of Princeton, both 18, have been charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy. According to the Middlesex County prosecutor's office, they secretly placed a camera in the victim's dorm room in Piscataway "to view and transmit a live image" of the student having sex on Sept. 19.

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.

Mainardi told the Star-Ledger that Ravi and the victim were roommates at Rutgers. "The family and their representatives are cooperating fully with the ongoing criminal investigations of two Rutgers University students," he said in a statement. "They will have no further comment at this time."

Wei was released on her own recognizance after surrendering to Rutgers police in New Brunswick on Monday, according to the prosecutor's office. Ravi surrendered to Rutgers police on Tuesday and was released on $25,000 bail.

Under New Jersey’s invasion-of-privacy statutes, it is a fourth-degree crime to collect or view images depicting nudity or sexual contact involving another individual without that person’s consent, and it is a third-degree crime to transmit or distribute such images. The penalty for conviction of a third-degree offense can include a prison term of up to five years.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said in a statement Wednesday that his group considers Clementi's death a hate crime.

"We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind," Goldstein said. "And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others' lives as a sport."

Ravi and Wei, who according to the Star-Ledger were high school classmates before enrolling at Rutgers this fall, could not be located for comment Wednesday by Ravi and Wei did not respond to e-mail requests for comment Tuesday from the Star-Ledger.

Steve Altman, Ravi’s attorney, told "I understand the investigation is continuing because of the missing status of the alleged victim. That being so, I would not be doing the ethical thing to make any comment at the present time."

It was not immediately known if Wei had an attorney.

"We are profoundly saddened by this report, and our hearts and prayers are with the parents, family, and friends of this young man, who had started at Rutgers this semester as a first-year student on the New Brunswick campus," Rutgers President Richard McCormick said in a statement.

"If the charges are true," McCormick said "these actions gravely violate the university's standards of decency and humanity." The university does not comment on specifics of cases involving active criminal investigations, he said.

Lanman and the Middlesex County prosecutor's office told they had no information on the reported suicide.

"Our case is limited to the charging of two Rutgers students in the invasion of privacy case," said Jim O’Neill, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office. "I don’t know anything about suicide and that’s not part of the case we’re handling."

The investigation began after Rutgers police learned that a camera had been placed in the 18-year-old student’s dorm room without permission, Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan and Rutgers University Police Chief Rhonda Harris said in a news release.

The Middlesex County prosecutor's office wouldn't provide details of the alleged sexual encounters, including how and where they were broadcast.

Ravi wrote Sept. 19 on what is believed to his Twitter page, which has since been deleted: "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."

Two days later, Ravi apparently posted another entry referring to iChat, an internet messaging service with a live video feed.

"Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again," Ravi wrote in the Sept. 21 post, according to a Web-cached version of his Twitter feed.

Gay rights groups say Clementi's death is the latest example of a long-standing problem: young people who kill themselves because they're bullied about being gay — regardless of whether they are.

Last week, Dan Savage, a columnist at the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger, launched the It Gets Better Project, a YouTube channel where gay, lesbian and bisexual adults share the turmoil they experienced when they were younger — and show how their lives have gotten better.

In response to Clementi's death and others, the group Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays said it would issue a "call to action" on the topic.

On campus and off, there were outpourings of sympathy for Clementi.

A vigil was planned for Wednesday night. And a Facebook group, In Honor of Tyler Clementi, was quickly set up and by Wednesday had drawn nearly 3,000 people, many of whom posted remembrances of Clementi or expressions of shock over the death of the young man pictured playing his violin.

Ed Schmiedecke, the recently retired music director at Ridgewood High School, where Clementi graduated earlier this year, said Clementi was a violinist whose life revolved around music.

"He was a terrific musician, and a very promising, hardworking young man," he told the AP.

Thomas Jung, 19, who played alongside Clementi in the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, told The New York Times that hours before Clementi's suicide the two had rehearsed works by Berlioz and Beethoven.

"He loved music," Jung said. "He was very dedicated. I couldn’t tell if anything was wrong."