Rutgers Student Commits Suicide After Two Other Students Secretly Film Sexual Encounter

New Jersey officials are dealing with a tragic suicide of a freshman from Rutgers University after Tyler Clementi was allegedly filmed illegally in a sexual encounter by fellow freshman students Dharun Ravi, 18, and Molly Wei, 18. In an example of the merging of tort and criminal law, the two students have been criminally charged with invasion of privacy.

Ravi and Wei are accused of placing a camera in the Clementi’s dorm room during a sexual encounter with another male. If true, it was an incredibly vicious act followed by releasing the images on the Internet.
In addition to the criminal privacy violation, Ravi is charged with two more counts of invasion of privacy for trying to use the hidden camera to view the same student during another sexual encounter just three days later in September.

Ravi is accused of streaming the first encounter on the Web and then promising another such live feed two days later.

It was too much for this young man. In his final Facebook entry, Clementi simply wrote “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” He committed suicide just 72 hours after the story ran in the media.

These cases are commonly address in Torts under privacy actions, including the public disclosure of private embarrassing facts and intrusion upon seclusion. There is also intentional infliction of emotional distress. This is not a rare occurrence in tort. It is unfortunately all too common for such tapes to surface on the Internet or around universities after a couple breaks up. The result is usually a tort lawsuit as opposed to criminal charges.

However, some states have criminalized privacy violations. This case would clearly support the argument for a counterpart criminal code provisions, particularly after the victim took his life. Here is the New Jersey law:

2C:14-9. Invasion of privacy, degree of crime; defenses, privileges
1. a. An actor commits a crime of the fourth degree if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, and under circumstances in which a reasonable person would know that another may expose intimate parts or may engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact, he observes another person without that person’s consent and under circumstances in which a reasonable person would not expect to be observed.

b. An actor commits a crime of the third degree if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he photographs, films, videotapes, records, or otherwise reproduces in any manner, the image of another person whose intimate parts are exposed or who is engaged in an act of sexual penetration or sexual contact, without that person’s consent and under circumstances in which a reasonable person would not expect to be observed.

c. An actor commits a crime of the third degree if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he discloses any photograph, film, videotape, recording or any other reproduction of the image of another person whose intimate parts are exposed or who is engaged in an act of sexual penetration or sexual contact, unless that person has consented to such disclosure. For purposes of this subsection, “disclose” means sell, manufacture, give, provide, lend, trade, mail, deliver, transfer, publish, distribute, circulate, disseminate, present, exhibit, advertise or offer. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:43-3, a fine not to exceed $30,000 may be imposed for a violation of this subsection.

The law has only two affirmative defenses:

It is an affirmative defense to a crime under this section that:

(1) the actor posted or otherwise provided prior notice to the person of the actor’s intent to engage in the conduct specified in subsection a., b., or c., and

(2) the actor acted with a lawful purpose.

If convicted, Ravi and Wei face up to five years in jail. They could obviously also face tort liability. Indeed, I would recommend such a lawsuit in this type of case where the students are unlikely to spend more than a couple years. If proven, a civil judgment could force the students to continue to garnish their wages and send monthly amounts for many years to come — a constant reminder of the harm that they caused in this alleged senseless act.

Source: New York Daily News

Jonathan Turley

34 thoughts on “Rutgers Student Commits Suicide After Two Other Students Secretly Film Sexual Encounter”

  1. @Jonolan I know I’m way late and you’ll likely never see this. But, just about 100% of those “hidden” camera videos on porn sites are staged fakes made to fulfill a fetish.

    As far as amature uploads to youporn or something, there could be something to it but those would most likely be illegal.

    I worked in a porno shop for a few years and got to know some industry people.

  2. Only in new jersey could the criminal justice system be so outrageous.

    These people should not get 5 years they should get 25 years.

    They are responsible for someone killing themselves. And well regardless of if they did the killing, their actions led to the death of this kid by him deciding to take his life because of everything they did to torment him.

    That should count as aggrevated manslaughter. they should get at least 15-20 years each for manslaughter, and an additoonal 5-10 for the other charges. They should spend a long time in prison for what they did.

    No one deserves this.

    Maybe this will finally wake more people up to the hate crimes and people will stop harassing people because they are gay or different. this is crazy it is still happening in this day and age.

    its time to stop the hate people and come together as a country.

  3. But intentional infliction of emotional distress is not a crime right? I am totally convinced that Kevin Bennett, Jane Bennett, Randall Klauser, James Garrecht, The Steamboat Pilot etc have been trying to get me to commit suicide for 10 years and I can’t even get them to back off of their assertion that I molested Jane Bennett using my super powers from 30 feet away.

  4. eniobob,

    The University of Michigan has banned him from Campus…the AG is also charged withe representing the State Schools if a criminal act complained of occurs on campus…..So could we have a conflict of interest…FYI I am fully Hetro…..I have no problem with race, religion, sexual orientation yada yada until it infringes on my right of peace…..then I take offense…..I realize that many people have many different opinions….Justa agree to disagree….

  5. AY:
    From your above post.

    “He’s clearly a bully. Absolutely. And is he using the Internet to be a bully? Yes,” Cox said. “But is that protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution? Yes.”

    This bullying is creating national attention to whats going on in our schools,they have programs teaching the kids about this and it is also driving some of our kids over the edge.

  6. I read reports that since gays do not have civil liberties in his state that they cannot charge them for a civil rights violation…

  7. Posted: 7:20 a.m. Oct. 1, 2010 | Updated: 5:19 p.m. Oct. 1, 2010
    Michigan assistant AG Andrew Shirvell takes leave after antigay blog
    It’s personal leave of absence, not suspension, Cox spokeswoman says

    Read more: Michigan assistant AG Andrew Shirvell takes leave after antigay blog | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20101001/NEWS15/101001018/Michigan-assistant-AG-Andrew-Shirvell-takes-leave-after-antigay-blog#ixzz11D4ERVkB

    Assistant AG with antigay blog appeals order to keep off U-M campus

    Full story: Detroit Free Press

    Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell has been banned from the University of Michigan campus, and the student leader he’s been attacking via a blog has filed a personal protection order against him.

    http://www.topix.com/us-governors/jennifer-granholm/2010/09/assistant-ag-with-antigay-blog-appeals-order-to-keep-off-u-m-campus

    Fucker outta lose his license to practice or should be reassigned to represent the Department of Civil Rights….

  8. “But when he walked out over the Hudson River on September 22, with cars and trucks blaring beside him and the dark water 200 feet below, Mr. Clementi was alone. At 8:42 p.m., he posted a Facebook status update as tragic as anything in all of opera: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

    He left his wallet on the sidewalk. Then came the rush of wind, a final, sorrowful arc of sound that only he could hear”

    http://chronicle.com/article/article-content/124760/

    Being that this happened here it is really a cloud here in Jersey,So sad.

  9. I knew this unfortunate incident reminded me of something else but I could’t put my finger on it till now.

    This was a topic on the 28th 0f September.

    “Nicholas Marsh, a Justice Department prosecutor who was under investigation for his role in the botched prosecution of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), has committed suicide. It is a sad end to a promising career for Marsh who was removed by the Public Integrity Section after the investigation was commenced at Justice”

    Sad.

  10. In my view, there should be more charges. For example, prosecutors should add reckless endangerment to the charges. Two years is not enough for this crime. I also feel that if these “students” should experience incarceration, it endangers their life. So many that engaged in these types of criminality suffer prison justice. Both students should receive psychiatric intervention now. This will reduce the clinical costs later. They are clearly insane—I do not mean insanity to the extent it excuses behavior. I mean, to engage in such sadistic acts and derive pleasure from it is clearly pathological. The administration at Rutgers should immediately initiate teach-ins and reevaluate diversity requirements. In addition, it might be a good idea to include diversity workshops during freshmen student orientation. Part of these workshops should include an anti-suicide campaign. In short, it should tell students where to go should they experience emotional trauma; it should stress that they should not consider suicide under any circumstances. I am beginning to fall apart. I cannot go on. Thank you for the thread. In addition, thank you Professor Turley and New York Daily News.
    Anthony

  11. I have thought about this particular case all night and, given the learned explanation offered on this thread, have decided that this particular situation stands out as a very good example of how the Law has not caught up to technology. In my opinion there is a sexual predator aspect to this case that remains in limbo because the law is inadequate to the circumstances.

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