Trial begins for ex- Rutgers student accused of spying on gay roommate

Posted at 1:14 PM, Feb 21, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-21 13:15:34-05

PISCATAWAY , NJ (CBS NEWS) - Jury questioning begins Wednesday in the trial of the ex-Rutgers student accused of spying on his gay roommate with a webcam.

Tyler Clementi ended up committing suicide in September of 2010.

As a result, Dharun Ravi has been charged with invasion of privacy, witness and evidence tampering, and bias intimidation, which is a hate crime punishable by ten years in prison.

Officials said Dharun Ravi, who was 18 years old when he entered Rutgers as a freshman, communicated incessantly online.

Those emails, tweets and text messages he sent will likely to be used against him as prosecutors try to prove he harassed Tyler Clementi because he believed his college roommate was gay.

According to court records made public, even before he met Clementi, Ravi chatted to a friend "F*** MY LIFE/He's gay."

Later, Ravi twice focused his computer camera at Clementi's bed when Clementi had a man in the room, the second time posting on the social media site Twitter  "Yes, It's happening again".

Two days after he discovered that Ravi had spied on him, Clementi took a train to New York City and posted a message on Facebook page at 8:42 p.m saying that he was jumping off the George Washington Bridge and that he was sorry.

Clementi's body was discovered in the Hudson River a week later.

A letter from Clementi's older brother was also recently published in Out Magazine.

"I wish it didn't take you dying for your soul to know peace. I wish you could read the hundreds of letters we got, hear the thousands who rallied and marched for you, know the millions who followed your story on the 6 o'clock news. You were never alone; it just felt like it," wrote James Clementi.

Additionally, James Clementi revealed in the letter that he had told his  brother he was gay – and that at Tyler told had said he was as well. [Click here to read the letter]

Law professor Marc Poirier said the deadly outcome may be a reason Ravi is facing unusually harsh charges.

"Even though the suicide is technically not anywhere in the charges, when you talk to people on the street, you go on the web, it's still often perceived as Ravi did something that caused Clementi to killed himself," said Poirier.

However, the digital record may also help Ravi's defense since his attorneys are expected to use Clementi's own online postings to show that he did not feel intimidated.

"Doesn't seem soooo bad lol" he chatted to a friend, after he realized he had been spied on.

The night Clementi took the train to New York, Ravi sent him a text that read in part "I've known you were gay and I have no problem with it….I don't want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding."

However, Clementi most likely never got a chance to read it.