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Attorney: No Basis For Bias Charge In Rutgers Suicide Case

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A lawyer for a university student accused of webcasting a gay sexual encounter involving his roommate, who later committed suicide, says he’s confident his client won’t be charged with a bias crime.

Steven D. Altman, who represents Rutgers University freshman Dharun Ravi, issued a statement Wednesday saying he was “heartened to hear” that investigators are taking their time “to learn all the facts before rushing to judgment” about whether to file bias charges following the roommate’s suicide leap off a bridge. Altman said he hoped the public would do the same.

“I am confident that nothing will be learned to justify, warrant or support the filing of any bias criminal complaint,” Altman said.

Ravi, 18, and another Rutgers freshman, Molly Wei, also 18, are charged with invasion of privacy.

Ravi’s roommate, freshman Tyler Clementi, 18, jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River on Sept. 22, and his body was identified days later.

The death of Clementi, a promising violinist, has prompted a national discussion on the plight of young gay people and bullying. New Jersey’s U.S. senators, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, were scheduled to attend a town meeting addressing those issues Wednesday night on the Rutgers campus.

Clementi’s death was one of a string of suicides last month involving teens believed to have been victims of anti-gay bullying. Just days after Clementi’s body was recovered, more than 500 people attended a memorial service for a 13-year-old central California boy, Seth Walsh, who hanged himself after enduring taunts from classmates about being gay.

Middlesex County prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said earlier this week that he wouldn’t rush the investigation into Clementi’s death. His spokesman said Wednesday there was nothing new to report.

Attorneys for Wei released a statement Tuesday saying she was innocent and extending sympathy to the Clementi family.

“This is a tragic situation,” the statement said. “But this tragedy has also unfairly led to rampant speculation and misinformation, which threaten to overwhelm the actual facts of the matter. Those true facts will reveal that Molly is innocent.”

Ravi, of Plainsboro, and Wei, of Princeton, each could face up to five years in prison if convicted on the invasion of privacy charge.

Clementi’s family has said little. In a statement last week, it said it hoped the tragedy would “serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity.”

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