A New Jersey grand jury indicted Rutgers University student Dharum Ravi on 15 charges on Wednesday in connection with the September suicide of his roommate, Tyler Clementi. The charges came nine months after Clementi's death inspired a nationwide anti-bullying movement that has drawn support from everyone from Lady Gaga to President Obama, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.
According to The New York Times, after initially being charged with invasion of privacy, Ravi was accused in Wednesday's indictment of acting with antigay motives in posting a romantic encounter between Clementi and another man online, a hate crime that could result in a sentence of five to 10 years in prison if convicted.
In addition, the grand jury charged Ravi, 19, with an attempted cover-up in the case, accusing him of deleting a Twitter post that had alerted others about a second encounter Clementi had planned with the man and replacing it with a post that was "intended to mislead the investigation." Prosecutors also claimed that Ravi attempted to persuade some witnesses not to testify against him.
Prosecutors explained on Wednesday that the bias-intimidation charges were based in part on events that began on August 6, when Ravi learned his roommate's name, later announcing on Twitter that Clementi was gay.
"The grand jury charged that the invasion of privacy and attempt to invade the privacy of [Clementi] and [the other man] were intended to intimidate them because of their sexual orientation," prosecutors said in a statement. A co-defendant in the case, dorm-mate Molly Wei, was not indicted on Wednesday. Ravi, who withdrew from Rutgers, remains free on $25,000 bail.
"The grand jury indictment spells out cold and calculated acts against our son Tyler by his former college roommate," Clementi's parents said in a statement. "If these facts are true, as they appear to be, then it is important for our criminal justice system to establish clear accountability under the law."
Though the investigation that led to the indictment was low-key, Clementi's suicide opened up a very public national dialogue about the bullying of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, inspiring a number of major initiatives, including the "It Gets Better" campaign and renewed attention on MTV's own "A Thin Line" efforts to prevent cyberbullying. It also resulted in New Jersey passing the nation's toughest anti-bullying laws.
MTV's ongoing "A Thin Line" project also provides stories and resources for anyone who believes they are being cyberbullied or who is looking for ways to stop harassment by digital means.