Bias Crime Charges Possible In Rutgers Case

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NEW BRUNSWICK — Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan and Rutgers University Police Chief Rhonda Harris announced that an investigation into the invasion of privacy of an 18-year-old student is continuing, and will determine if there is probable cause to bring additional charges against two Rutgers students who have been named defendants in the case.

With the arrest of two of the responsible parties, the on-going investigation is considering the motives leading to the illegal Internet transmission of a personal encounter involving the victim, authorities said.

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‘’The initial focus of this investigation has been to determine who was responsible for remotely activating the camera in the dormitory room of the student and then transmitting the encounter on the Internet,’’ Kaplan said.

‘’Now that two individuals have been charged with invasion of privacy, we will be making every effort to assess whether bias played a role in the incident, and, if so, we will bring appropriate charges,’’ Kaplan said.

Dharun Ravi, 18, of Plainsboro and Molly W. Wei, 18, of Princeton have been charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy for using the camera to view and transmit a live image of the 18-year-old student in Piscataway on Sept. 19.

Ravi also is charged with two additional counts of invasion of privacy for attempting to use the camera to view and transmit another encounter involving the same 18-year-old student on Sept. 21.

Wei was released in her own recognizance after surrendering to the Rutgers University Police Department in New Brunswick on Sept. 27. Ravi surrendered to Rutgers police on Sept. 28 and was released on $25,000 bail.

A court hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The investigation began after Rutgers police learned that the camera had been placed in the 18-year-old student’s dorm room without permission. Police subsequently filed the charges against Ravi and Wei.

Authorities have not disclosed the identity of the 18-year-old student, since the student was the victim of an invasion of privacy, which is a sexual offense under New Jersey law.

Police recovered the body of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood, Ravi’s roommate at Rutgers, from the Hudson River. The New York City Medical Examiner’s office has ruled the death a suicide.

Under New Jersey’s invasion-of-privacy statutes, it is a fourth degree crime to view images depicting nudity or sexual contact involving another individual without that person’s consent, and it is a third degree crime to transmit or distribute such images. The penalty for conviction of a third degree offense can include a prison term of up to five years.

Authorities are asking anyone with information on this, or similar incidents, to call the Rutgers University Police Department at (732) 932-8025, or the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-3300.

As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against Ravi and Wei are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.


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