NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — An alternate juror in the trial of a former Rutgers University student convicted in a webcam spying episode that ended in his gay roommate’s suicide said he disagrees with the verdict.
James Downey told The Record on Saturday that he wouldn’t have voted to convict Dharun Ravi on any charges related to allegations that his actions were motivated by anti-gay bias.
Prosecutors said Ravi set up his webcam in his dorm room and watched Tyler Clementi kissing another man on Sept. 19, 2010, then tweeted about it and excitedly tried to catch Clementi in the act again two days later. A half dozen students were believed to have seen the live video of the kissing; no video was taken the second time.
As an alternate, the Woodbridge Township resident heard all the testimony but did not participate in deliberations. The jury, which returned its verdict Friday, was unanimous in finding Ravi guilty of all 15 charges, including invasion of privacy and anti-gay intimidation.
Ravi wasn’t charged with causing or contributing to his roommate’s death. Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge days after his intimate encounter with the other man. The case stirred a national conversation about anti-gay bullying and teen suicide and illustrated the dangers of technology in the hands of people who have grown up with the likes of Twitter and Facebook.
“Whatever (Ravi) did was stupid, but I don’t think he ever had any intention of intimidating (Clementi),” Downey said. “I think that scenario could have happened 100 different ways, whether he had a straight roommate who had a girlfriend over … there are 100 scenarios where he could have been goofing around and turning the camera on and it had nothing to do with somebody being gay.”
Downey said he was “kind of up in the air” on the other charges, saying he likely would have voted to convict Ravi on charges of hindering apprehension and tampering with witnesses and evidence.
Downey said he wasn’t upset about being named an alternate juror at the close of Ravi’s trial because deliberating the case would have been difficult.
“The fact that I was picked as an alternate was almost relieving to me, especially considering the verdict they came back with,” he said. “I don’t really want to carry that around as far as the responsibility of sending somebody, especially a young man, to prison.”
Ravi could face five to 10 years in prison on the bias intimidation charges alone when he’s sentenced May 21 and could be deported to his native India even though he has lived legally in the U.S. since he was little. Several months ago, Ravi and his lawyers rejected a plea bargain that would have spared him from prison, and prosecutors would have helped him avoid deportation.
Ravi’s lawyers have vowed to appeal the verdict.