(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) — An appeals court in New Jersey on Friday threw out the convictions against a former Rutgers University student whose roommate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself after he was captured on a webcam kissing another man.
After a 16-day trial in 2012, a jury found Dharun Ravi guilty of all 15 counts on which he was indicted before he was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of probation.
He was also required to complete 300 hours of community service, attend cyberbullying counseling and pay an assessment of $10,000 to a state-run organization dedicated to providing assistance to victims of bias crimes.
Ravi’s attorney, Steven Altman, and the Middlesex Prosecutor’s Office, which tried the case and argued the appeal, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
A request for a new trial by the defense had been denied, but the three-judge panel today threw out the four counts of bias intimidation against Ravi because of a change to a state law after his trial. One count of second-degree hindering apprehension was also thrown out.
The judges also ordered a new trial on the 10 other counts for which Ravi was indicted — including invasion of privacy, tampering with evidence and hindering apprehension – because the evidence used to prove the bias charges “tainted the jury’s verdict on the remaining charges, depriving defendant of his constitutional right to a fair trial.”
It was “unreasonable” to expect a “rational juror to remain unaffected” by the evidence provided by the prosecution “to prove the bias intimidation charges,” according to the judiciary opinion.
Rutgers University matched Ravi and Clementi as roommates for the fall 2010 semester, and an email alerting Ravi to his roommate match also provided him with Clementi’s contact information, according to the judiciary opinion. Ravi and a friend were then able to learn that someone using Clementi’s email address was posting to a gay forum.
On Sept. 19, 2010, less than a month after Ravi and Clementi moved into their dorm, Ravi told friends that Clementi had asked to have the room to himself, the opinion stated. One of Ravi’s friends, characterized as M.W., testified that Ravi had set up his computer to auto-accept video chat requests.
When Ravi then used M.W.’s computer to video chat his own computer, an image of Clementi kissing a man came on the screen, according to the appeal judges’ decision. The room was dark, but M.W. testified that she could see that the men were standing and fully clothed. After about two seconds, she and Ravi closed the computer, she testified.
The two had resolved to not tell anyone, M.W. told prosecutors. Two days later, Ravi texted M.W. indicating that Clementi had asked for the room to himself again, according to the judges’ opinion. That night, Ravi enlisted the help of another friend as he moved the angle of the webcam to put Clementi’s bed squarely into view.
Ravi had alerted several friends to the function and texted one friend saying that people were “having a viewing party” in another dorm room, but texted her the next day saying the webcam “got messed up and didn’t work.”
Clementi became aware of Ravi’s webcam plan, writing “roommate used webcame to spy on me” on a room change application on in the early morning hours of Sept. 21.
The next day, he jumped off the George Washington Bridge. His death sparked a national conversation about the emergence of cyberbullying.
None of the counts against Ravi are in direct connection to Clementi’s death.
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