March 14, 2012 / 11:15 PM / in 6 years

Jury weighs hate crime in gay bullying case

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey (Reuters) - A New Jersey jury on Wednesday ended its first day of deliberations without deciding whether a former Rutgers University student committed a hate crime when he used a webcam to spy on his college roommate kissing another man.

The roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide days later and the case put a national spotlight on gay bullying.

The 12 jurors are weighing 15 charges against Dharun Ravi including bias intimidation, which carries a possible 10-year prison sentence, and lesser crimes of invasion of privacy and witness tampering that do not entail prison time for a first offender.

The jury deliberated for four hours on Wednesday before being dismissed for the day and ordered to begin again Thursday morning.

Ravi, now 20, is not charged in the death of Clementi, 18, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010, after learning his freshman roommate covertly saw him kissing another man and appeared to encourage others to watch through a camera on Ravi’s computer.

To convict Ravi of bias intimidation, Judge Glenn Berman said jurors will have to decide Ravi singled out Clementi because he was gay.

“You need to have reason to believe that he was targeted,” the judge said before turning the case over to the jury in Middlesex County Court in New Jersey. “The belief must be a reasonable one.”

The seven women and five men on the jury were urged in summations by defense lawyer Steven Altman to dismiss Ravi’s actions as those of a foolish child trying to impress others rather than a bully who harbored a prejudice against gays.

Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure in her closing said Ravi’s messages about Clementi on Twitter and other social media, including one inviting others to a “viewing party” through a webcam aimed at Clementi’s bed after he asked for the room alone, showed his animosity toward his gay roommate.

While the lesser charges do not carry prison sentences, if convicted Ravi, who is not a U.S. citizen, could be deported to India, where he was born.

Editing By Barbara Goldberg and Will Dunham

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