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Rutgers suicide: Victim's roommate is charged with hate crime

A former student is indicted on 15 counts, including invasion of privacy, in the Rutgers suicide case. He is alleged to have used a webcam to spy on his roommate's sexual encounter with another man.

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Congress is considering the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, which would require all universities receiving federal funds to have a policy banning harassment based on race, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity.

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Despite public outcry, cyberbullying remains new territory when it comes to criminal prosecutions, and cases have gone both ways. A 13-year-old Missouri girl, Megan Meier, took her life in 2006 after being bullied over Myspace.com. A woman who had participated in the bullying with her teenage daughter and her daughter's friends was acquitted in 2009 of "accessing computers without authorization."

"Although Facebook, Twitter and text message evidence is part of nearly every case, the law has not caught up with this technology," Derek S. Witte, assistant law professor at the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law in Michigan, writes in an email.

Last month, William Francis Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse, was convicted in Minnesota of persuading people he’d met online to commit suicide as he watched via a web cam.

Molly Wei, a former Rutgers student and friend of Ravi's who allegedly watched the first webcast with him from her dorm room, has not yet been indicted by a grand jury, though prosecutors have charged her with two counts of invasion of privacy. Both Ms. Wei and Ravi left Rutgers voluntarily.

In the wake of the suicide, Rutgers has announced policy changes that school officials say will help prevent future tragedy. Last month, the university said it would provide some gender-neutral housing, allowing men and women to share rooms. Officials said this would provide a more friendly environment for gay and transgendered students, though heterosexual students would be eligible to apply for the program as well.

Clementi’s parents, who have described their son as a gifted musician, said in a statement they were eager "for justice in this case and to reinforce the standards of acceptable conduct in our society."

If convicted, Ravi could face 5 to 10 years in prison.

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