NJ Student Secretly Taped Having Sex Kills Himself

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) – A college student jumped to his death off a bridge a day after authorities say two classmates surreptitiously recorded him having sex with a man in his dorm room and broadcast it over the Internet.

Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge last week, said his family’s attorney, Paul Mainardi. Police recovered a man’s body Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River just north of the bridge, and authorities were trying to determine if it was Clementi’s.

ABC News and The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Clementi left on his Facebook page on Sept. 22 a note that read: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” On Wednesday, his Facebook page was accessible only to friends.

Two Rutgers freshmen have been charged with illegally taping the 18-year-old Clementi having sex and broadcasting the images via an Internet chat program.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said in a statement Wednesday that his group considers Clementi’s death a hate crime.

“We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind,” Goldstein said. “And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others’ lives as a sport.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what Clementi’s sexual orientation was, and a call asking the family’s lawyer about it was not immediately returned Wednesday.

On the Rutgers campus straddling New Brunswick and Piscataway, there was dismay over Clementi’s death and the circumstances that led to it.

Freshman Jonathan Pena said he was in a dorm lounge on Sept. 19 when someone came in and mentioned the sex webcast happening that night. “I knew him as a nice kid,” Pena said. “I didn’t know why anyone was bothering him with that.”

Rutgers president Richard McCormick sent a letter to the campus.

“We are profoundly saddened by this report, and our hearts and prayers are with the parents, family, and friends of this young man, who had started at Rutgers this semester as a first-year student on the New Brunswick campus,” he wrote. “If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university’s standards of decency and humanity.”

News of Clementi’s death came the same day that Rutgers, the flagship university in a state known for ruthless mob bosses, petulant reality show stars and cutthroat drivers, launched a two-year project to get people on campus to behave better.

Under the aegis of that project, students, faculty and other employees have been encouraged to attend a series of lectures, presentations and discussions on civility, exploring such topics as how cell phones, iPods and other gadgets affect civility, and sportsmanship for athletes and fans.

One of the defendants, Dharun Ravi, was Clementi’s roommate, Mainardi told The Star-Ledger.
The other defendant is Molly Wei. Ravi and Wei could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

A lawyer for Ravi, of Plainsboro, did not immediately return a message seeking comment. It was unclear whether Wei, of Princeton, had retained a lawyer.

The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office charged the pair, both 18, with two counts apiece of invasion of privacy, claiming they used the webcam to view and transmit a live image of Clementi on Sept. 19. Ravi was also charged with two more counts of invasion of privacy alleging he tried to transmit another encounter of Clementi on Sept. 21.

Collecting or viewing sexual images without consent is a fourth-degree crime. Transmitting them is a third-degree crime with a maximum prison term of five years.

A Twitter account belonging to Ravi was recently deleted, but in a cached version retained through Google he sent a message on Sept. 19: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

Two days later, he wrote on Twitter: “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again.”

Clementi’s driver’s license and Rutgers ID were found in a wallet left on the bridge on Sept. 22 after two witnesses saw someone jump from it, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Clementi’s body hadn’t been positively identified.

Mainardi issued a statement Wednesday confirming Clementi’s suicide.

“Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician,” Mainardi said. “The family is heartbroken beyond words.”

Ed Schmiedecke, the recently retired music director at Ridgewood High School, where Clementi graduated earlier this year, said Clementi was a violinist whose life revolved around music.

“He was a terrific musician, and a very promising, hardworking young man.”

On campus and off, Clementi’s story gained sympathy after word of his death spread.

About 100 people attended a campus vigil Wednesday night, with some lying on the ground and chanting things like, “If my dorm’s not safe, Rutgers isn’t safe.”

And a Facebook group, In Honor of Tyler Clementi, was quickly set up and by Wednesday had drawn nearly 3,000 people, many of whom posted remembrances of Clementi or expressions of shock over the death of the young man pictured playing his violin.

“You will never be forgotten Tyler,” Samantha Hoffer commented. “I am so glad to have known such an amazing and talented person in my life. Rest in peace.”

Georges Richa, a Rutgers freshman from New Brunswick, said he got to know Clementi a bit during dorm room conversations that last until 3 a.m. and are a rite of the earliest days of college.

“I wish I could have been more of an ally,” he said. “I’ve been arguing about this for days” with others on the hall.

Gay rights groups say Clementi’s death is the latest example of a long-standing problem: young people who kill themselves because they’re bullied about being gay — regardless of whether they are.

Last week, Dan Savage, a columnist at the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger, launched the It Gets Better Project, a YouTube channel where gay, lesbian and bisexual adults share the turmoil they experienced when they were younger — and show how their lives have gotten better.

In response to Clementi’s death and others, the group Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays said it would issue a “call to action” on the topic.

New York Police Department harbor officers recovered the body of a white man, clad only in pants, wearing a watch and without identification after a parks department employee spotted a body floating in the river, police said. The body was taken to the city medical examiner’s office; authorities hoped to use the watch as identification.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


One Comment

  1. Disgusted says:


    You are delusional. I hope you never have a child that is bullied to the point of despair. It happens everywhere.

  2. June says:


    You say having these kids go to jail for the crime they committed won’t bring Tyler back — can’t that also be said of true murderers who are sent to jail? Why don’t we just let them get away with their crimes, too, since it won’t bring back the person they killed? When a CRIME is committed their is a legal price to pay and what they did IS a crime, which they are being charged with. Under the law, it’s impossible to charge them with murder, but they should do time for the other crimes that they committed.

    As for technology being everywhere, isn’t that more of a reason to not take this lightly? If these kids get a slap on the wrist all college kids are at risk for this happening, because people will realize there aren’t major consequences.

    As for kids getting in trouble for being bullies or saying something mean and being afraid it’s gotten out of hand as far as consequences go, if parents teach their children to respect others and are shown this example in the home, they won’t get into trouble.

    You sound like you are the parent of a bully. Maybe you want to take care of that instead of petitioning for lenience in laws on message boards.

    PS — This wasn’t a PRANK it was a CRIME.

  3. Claire says:

    JUST MY OPINION – Are you by any chance the parent of either of these two kids?

    So you are saying that the futures of these two should not be destroyed; however, I’d say the future of Tyler was destroyed when a video of him having intercouse with another man circulated the Net. Don’t ya think?

  4. Chrissy says:

    I am sorry but to the people that think the two kids who posted this young man having sex with another young man did it out of pure hatred. How can you defend them when if their malicious stunt hadn’t happened this young man would still be alive. They do deserve to lose their futures over this because as a society we have become too relaxed on bullies. It is disgusting that people would even defend their actions. They knew what they were doing was mean and they didn’t care. Wanting the whole school to see this young boy. How many of you would want your sex lives posted on the internet for all too see? I honestly don’t think any of you would. It is a violation of your privacy of the utmost degree. I say they need a longer sentence and maybe someone to beat the hell out of them for what they did. Yes it is murder because they knew their actions would have consequences and him killing himself was the consequence now they need to pay for what they did. They need to be taught you can’t treat people like this and get away with it. ALL prank are harmful…because someone inevitably gets hurt. My thoughts and condolences go out to this young mans family. I am sorry that their are people out there that would do anything in their power to tear down a beautiful person just for a few laughs.

  5. justmyopinion says:

    I do believe that these kids will be haunted for the rest of their lives because of this. However, putting them in jail, giving them a criminal record, and ruining their careers before they’ve even taken off doesn’t seem right either. That’s not going to bring back Tyler and ultimately not going to make his family understand or accept his death any better. Technology is everywhere and no one knows that more than young adults. If Tyler was going to engage in an act that he felt he couldn’t live with anyone else knowing about, than he should have picked somewhere more private than shared college dorm room. Even without the help of the internet, college kids are aware of what is doing on behind other college dorm doors. Again, what those two did is lowly and does deserve to be reprimanded. I am sad to hear that Tyler felt he could not go on because of this video but it was Tyler and Tyler alone who decided to jump off a bridge. These two could not of known that he would kill himself. I am also just afraid of what a ruling on this could mean in the future. We already live in such a politically correct world and as a mother, I feel that schools are already too uptight about certain things. Yet for all their “measures,” they are not stopping things like this from happening.

  6. justmyopinion says:

    While it’s a shame that he killed himself, I don’t see how the two that recorded him can be called murderers. While I am in no way condoning what they did, they did not know that he would commit suicide. Should they be expelled from the university, absolutely… But to be willing to hang them from the highest tree is too extreme.

    1. Deb says:

      If he was your child or brother I am sure you would feel differently!
      They have to be held accountable. This kind of stuff is becoming more and more prevalent and it has to be shown that it is so incredibly wrong. I really hope those two are haunted for the rest of their lives by what they prompted!

  7. Daisy says:

    Not surprised to see a sick prank like this. With reality shows and shows like “Punked”, the bar has been lowered.

  8. Tom says:

    The comment that facebook pages are only viewable to ‘friends’ is incorrect. If someone wants to view your page and they have the know-how, they will. Facebook privacy has been under scrutiny for a long time now. Lawyers use it, cops use it, burglars use it to see if you’re posting about how the shore is, signaling an empty house, etc… My prayers go out to this boy and his family.

  9. Bob BoDean says:

    This is so sad for the family and friends of this young man. The two that taped this should do jailtime for sure but probably won’t. Are they in this country illegally?

  10. June says:

    No way they’ll get charged with murder, but morally, they should be held to pay for it, but the law doesn’t allow for that, unfortunately. The one guy was his roommate, so yeah, he knew him.. What a piece of you-know-what. So evil. I hope they get their due in prison and get the lengthiest sentence. The DA should not make a deal and should make an example of them. They should obviously be expelled. This crime NEEDS to follow NY’s example and be made a felony in all states. A misdemeanor is not enough of a deterrent and the pain it causes the victim is not something that can be described — people don’t think it’s a big deal until it happens to them or someone they love. Prayers for the families…

  11. Scott H. says:

    These other kids will get 100% of the blame for this, unfortunately they were probably his closest friends. Remember that he did not know they were taping him (he wouldn’t have been having sex if he knew others were watching). It may be unbelievably trashy but they did not murder this guy. Obviously, still quite sad to lose a promising young gay man.

    1. PeterC says:

      The other kids ARE 100% to blame for this. Their actions directly lead to his death. While they didn’t pull the trigger, had they not humiliated him like they did, he wouldn’t have taken his life. It’s not premeditated, but it’s murder nonetheless. Five years is nothing for an 18 year old. Their lives will continue once they’re out. Tyler’s gone and his family and friends will never have him back. It’s sickening, but not surprising. We don’t live in a society that encourages civility and kindness towards others.

  12. Rascallflattsgirl says:

    I hope and pray those two go to jail! My heart breaks for this young man and his family. I said it before, I will say it again: Not enough resources for the prevention of suicide. What this poor kid must have been going through… Human trash is what those 2 pigs are!!!!

  13. Patti M. says:

    This story just breaks my heart. My prayers to this young man’s family and for the students that caused this. Is their life so empty and their need for attention so strong that they did this horrible act? I pray for them because they will have to live with this consequence forever. The saying goes ‘R U a number’? Was anyone there to help this young man – or was he a number!

Comments are closed.

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