Yesterday afternoon police found the body of a young man in the Hudson River, north of the George Washington bridge. WPIX reports that the NYPD believes the body is that of 18-year-old Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, who jumped off the bridge last week, leaving a Facebook message, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." It's been widely reported that on September 19th, Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, "used a camera in his dormitory room to stream the roommate’s intimate encounter live on the Internet," as the Times puts it. But was the encounter actually "streamed live" on the Internet?
After Clementi asked to have the room to himself, Ravi went to classmate Molly Wei's room and allegedly peeked into his own room using his computer's webcam. The Star-Ledger reports that Ravi told classmates "he accidentally turned on the webcam in his room while he was in Wei’s dorm room. Ravi told friends he quickly shut the webcam down when he saw Clementi in a sexual encounter."
Both Ravi and classmate Molly Wei are charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for using "the camera to view and transmit a live image." Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan tells WPIX that it's a fourth-degree crime "to collect or view images depicting nudity or sexual content of an individual without that person's consent. The crime becomes a third-degree offense if the images are transmitted or distributed."
But it's unclear if Ravi's act of checking his webcam constitutes "transmitting or distributing," and it appears that the images of Clementi's intimate encounter were not seen by anyone other than Wei. Ravi then tweeted about it, and allegedly attempted (unsuccessfully) to broadcast Clementi's next encounter via iChat on the 21st. (He's been charged with two additional counts of invasion of privacy for the failed Sept. 21st attempt.)
The news of Clementi's suicide comes, ironically, as Rutgers begins "Project Civility," a long-planned campaign to raise awareness about the importance of respect, compassion and courtesy in everyday interactions. The two year long campaign will "test the hypothesis that a community-wide effort to cultivate small acts of courtesy and compassion in our daily lives will result, over time, in a more charitable campus culture- one marked by an increase in thoughtful communication and a decrease in hostile encounters."