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Students Involved in Rutger University Suicide Could Face Hate Crime Charges

October 6, 2010 | Posted In Recent News - Criminal Law |

Prosecutors are considering adding hate crime charges to charges of invasion of privacy that have already been filed against Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, the two Rutger University students linked to a gay teenager’s suicide last month. 

However, it may not be as simple as that.  Prosecutors may find it hard to apply New Jersey's laws to a situation involving two teenagers surreptitiously videotaping a roommate’s sexual encounter with a man, and streaming it on the Internet for public viewing.  Prosecutors in Middlesex County believe that both Ravi and Wei used the WebCam to stream a feed of Ravi’s roommate, Tyler Clementi, during the encounter. Clementi committed suicide the next day by jumping from the George Washington Bridge.  Prosecutors are currently focusing on who was responsible for activating the WebCam in Clementi’s dormitory room, which he shared with Ravi, and then transmitting the feed through the WebCam.

Prosecutors have quite a task ahead of them.  There is no known precedent for a case in New Jersey where homicide laws have been used to punish a person for someone else's suicide.  Under New Jersey's privacy laws, viewing sexual pictures of someone without their consent is a fourth-degree crime.  Broadcasting them is a third-degree crime, punishable with a maximum sentence of five years.  Even if the two are convicted on charges of invasion of privacy, they face a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

The New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman are dedicated to the representation of persons charged with drug crimes, sex crimes, DWI, assault and other crimes across New Jersey.

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