A former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate’s love life has been convicted of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy in a case that exploded into the headlines when the victim of the snooping committed suicide.
Indian-born Dharun Ravi, 20, could face 10 years in prison when he’s sentenced on May 21 and be deported after he’s finished serving his time. He shook his head slightly after the guilty verdicts were read for all 15 counts, including bias intimidation, a hate crime, and invasion of privacy.
Ravi’s former roommate, Tyler Clementi, 18, jumped off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010, after finding out that Ravi saw him kissing another man and appeared to encourage others to watch through a camera on his computer.
The panel deliberated for 10 hours total on Wednesday and Thursday and began anew about 9 a.m. on Friday before announcing around 11 a.m. that it had a verdict.
The seven women and five men on the jury, who appear to range in age from their 20s to 70s, 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 statement 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.
Clementi checked Ravi’s Twitter account 38 times in the two days before he killed himself, the prosecution told the jury.
Altman said Friday afternoon that he would prepare a press release on the case next week. “Right now I am just dealing with the emotions that everyone involved with the Ravi family and the defense experienced and continue to experience with the verdict,” he said.
At a courthouse news conference after the verdict, Clementi’s father, Joe, addressed himself to college students and other young people, saying: “You’re going to meet a lot of people in your life. Some of these people you may not like. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you have to work against them.”
In a statement issued after the verdict, Rutgers University said: “This sad incident should make us all pause to recognize the importance of civility and mutual respect in the way we live, work and communicate with others.”
The jury found Ravi not guilty on some subparts of some of the charges, but guilty of all 15 counts as a whole.
Before the trial, Ravi and his lawyers had rejected a plea bargain that would have spared him from prison. He would have gotten probation and 600 hours of community service and would have been given help in avoiding deportation.
Reaction to the verdict in the legal and gay communities was mixed Friday.
“There’s no winner here,” said Bill Dobbs, a longtime gay activist and civil libertarian. “There’s a young gay man dead and another one whose life is wrecked to a considerable degree. This case had an overzealous prosecutor … who was pushed by gay organizations that have lost sight of justice.”
Marc Poirer, an openly gay professor of law and sexuality at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey, said he was concerned about the verdict, saying it was not a typical bias crime.
“I think that the law didn’t fit very well,” he said, calling Ravi’s actions those of a “dumb 18-year-old” that “went wrong.”
“I think if Clementi had not committed suicide, none of this would have surfaced in this way,” he added. “I don’t want to say it’s a miscarriage of justice. I would say it’s a misapplication of principles that would be better served — especially if we’re just figuring out how to do this — with a clearer case.”
Msnbc.com’s Miranda Leitsinger, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.