Tyler Clementi case: Roommate rejects plea deal, parents launch foundation

The parents of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide last year, talk about supporting young people who face bullying.

Noah K. Murray/AP
Dharun Ravi, former Rutgers student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man, leaves Middlesex County Court in New Brunswick, N.J. on Friday. Ravi rejected a plea deal that would have kept him out of prison and sought to prevent his deportation, accepting the gamble of a trial.

As the legal case moves forward against Dharun Ravi, the student accused of using a webcam to spy on roommate Tyler Clementi shortly before he committed suicide last year, Mr. Clementi’s parents have begun to turn their grief into support for young people who face bullying – particularly those victimized for their sexual orientation.

“We want to do our part to help save lives and reduce the anguish of those who are tormented because of the way they look, their sexual orientation, or just for being different,” said Joseph Clementi, Tyler’s father, in a press release launching the Tyler Clementi Foundation this week in Ridgewood, N.J.

The charges against Mr. Ravi include invasion of privacy and bias intimidation – a hate crime in New Jersey, where the alleged crimes occurred. The charges stem from allegations that Ravi spied on Clementi kissing a man in their dorm room and streamed it on the Internet for others to see.

Ravi rejected a plea deal Friday that would require him to do community service and receive counseling, but would keep him out of jail. The trial is set for Feb. 21.

About three weeks before Clementi started his freshman year at Rutgers University in 2010, he told his parents he was gay, according to Joseph and Jane Clementi’s first media interview, appearing in Friday’s issue of People magazine. They said they had no sense prior to their son’s death that he was depressed or suicidal.

In a brief statement this fall, his parents said they wanted the details of the events leading up to Clementi’s death to emerge, but they didn’t believe justice had to involve harsh punishment of Ravi.

"Something good has to come out of this terrible situation," Ms. Clementi told People.

The foundation they started has already supported one event, a symposium on young people’s use of social media, cosponsored with Rutgers in November.

The foundation, headed by Joseph Clementi, plans to work to prevent bullying, cyberbullying, and suicide, as well as promote the acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens. The creed of the foundation is “live = let live,” the organization’s website says.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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