Parents of teen suicide want privacy charges prosecuted

MONTCLAIR, New Jersey Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:44pm EDT

Related Topics

MONTCLAIR, New Jersey (Reuters) - The parents of a college student who killed himself after his sexual encounter was shown online do not hold his former roommate criminally responsible for the death but do want him prosecuted for invading their son's privacy, their attorney said on Tuesday.

Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, 18, who leaped off the George Washington Bridge last fall, was the victim of a crime, not merely a "college prank," Jane and Joseph Clementi said in a statement through their attorney.

Last September, his former roommate Dharun Ravi allegedly set up a webcam in the dorm room he shared with Clementi and streamed a live video online of Clementi in a romantic tryst with another man.

Clementi killed himself a few days later.

Ravi and Molly Wei, another student allegedly involved in the incident, withdrew from Rutgers.

They are charged with invasion of privacy in the fourth degree, which carries a possible sentence of 18 months in jail, and a more serious third-degree charge of transmitting or distributing images that carries a maximum five-year prison term.

Wei is accused of one count of each charge, and Ravi is accused of two counts of each charge.

Although there is a possibility of prison, judges have wide latitude in such cases, especially for first-time offenders, making incarceration less likely.

The Clementis "do not seek to hold (Ravi) criminally responsible for Tyler's suicide," attorney Paul Mainardi said in an email.

Nor do they seek a "particularly harsh punishment ... understanding that the tragedy that has unfolded has already encompassed this young man as well."

They made no mention of Wei, who was released on her own recognizance. Ravi was released on $25,000 bail.

Attorneys for Wei and Ravi did not return calls for comment.

Clementi's parents also announced plans to establish an anti-bullying foundation in memory of their son, whose case triggered calls for tolerance and efforts to combat bullying.

"This alleged act of bullying very much could have played a role in someone's death," said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a New Jersey gay rights group.

"If that doesn't warrant criminal prosecution, I don't know what should," he said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)