Dharun Ravi with lead defense attorney Steven Altman. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
(Reuters) - A jury convicted Dharun Ravi of hate crimes on Friday after he used a computer webcam to view his Rutgers University roommate kissing another man in a case that sparked a national outcry over gay bullying.
Ravi, 20, faces 10 years in prison on the most serious charges of bias intimidation against Tyler Clementi, 18, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge days after learning that his gay encounter was seen by webcam. Ravi, who invited others to watch the feed from the camera mounted on top of his computer, was not charged with causing Clementi's death.
Ravi, an Indian citizen who has lived most of his life in the United States, will be sentenced on May 21 and continues to be free on $25,000 bail after surrendering his passport.
After 12 hours of deliberations over three days, the jury convicted Ravi on all 15 counts. Ravi covered his mouth with his hand and his eyes widenened as the verdict was read in a courtroom in Middlesex County, New Jersey.
Juror Bruno Ferreira said it was "very difficult" to reach the guilty verdicts on the hate crime counts, which were tied to Ravi using and attempting to use a webcam twice to spy on his roommate's encounter with an older man in their dorm room.
"Thinking about it not being done once, being done twice, not just on one day," was what convinced the seven-woman, five-man panel to convict on the hate crime charges, said Ferreira, who appeared to be in his 30s.
Clementi's death on September 22, 2010, came amid a spate of gay teen suicides nationwide, triggering President Obama to condemn bullying, speeding passage of New Jersey's anti-bullying law and prompting Rutgers to offer "gender-neutral housing," which gives students more options when it comes to choosing a roommate.
The case intially sparked headlines about cyber-bullying, in part because of incorrect media reports that Ravi recorded Clementi having sex and broadcast it on the Web.
In considering the hate crime charges, the jury had to decide whether Ravi was deliberately trying to intimidate Clementi or the other man because of their sexuality, or, alternatively, if they thought that Clementi could reasonably believe he was being targeted for being gay.
Going to trial was a gamble for Ravi, who turned down the prosecutor's offer of a plea deal recommending probation, community service and the promise to help Ravi, who is not a U.S. citizen, if
immigration authorities tried to deport him to India.
(Writing Barbara Goldberg, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Paul Thomasch)
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