Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.
Friday marked the opening of the criminal trial of Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers freshman who used Twitter and a webcam in 2010 to spy on his roommate's sexual encounter with a male friend.
Three days after the incident, the roommate, fellow freshman Tyler Clementi, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, generating front-page headlines and sparking a national conversation about cyber-bullying.
Ravi's trial will be broadcast live across the country and as far away as India, ABC News reports, as prosecutors and defense lawyers argue whether Ravi's actions were simply those of an immature college student or something criminally worse. He faces 15 charges, including hate crimes and invasion of privacy. If convicted, Ravi, who was born in India, could receive up to 10 years in prison and faces deportation.
Defense lawyers on Friday argued that Ravi's actions—which included public tweets like "Found out my roommate is gay"—were the mark of an ignorant teenager, not a hateful homophobe, the New York Times reports. "He may be stupid at times," said Ravi's lawyer, Steven Altman. "He's an 18-year-old boy, but he's certainly not a criminal."
Prosecutors, meanwhile, contend that Ravi's online actions were deliberate, malicious and intended to "deprive [Clemtenti] of his dignity," MSNBC reports.