Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Accused in Rutgers case 'innocent'

Rutgers University students sign condolence cards for the family of fellow student Tyler Clementi (AP)

Lawyers for one of the two Rutgers University students accused of secretly webcasting the sex life of a fellow freshman who later committed suicide have said their client is innocent.

Prosecutors have charged Molly Wei, of Princeton, and fellow Rutgers freshman Dharun Ravi of Plainsboro, both 18, with invasion of privacy for allegedly using a webcam to broadcast the encounter between Ravi's roommate, 18-year-old freshman Tyler Clementi, and a man who hasn't been identified.

Clementi jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River three days later. His death has led to nationwide soul-searching over the plight of gay teenagers and to mourning on the Rutgers campus. Prosecutors are weighing whether to charge Wei and Ravi with a hate crime.

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

"This is a tragic situation. But this tragedy has also unfairly led to rampant speculation and misinformation, which threaten to overwhelm the actual facts of the matter," the statement said. "Those true facts will reveal that Molly Wei is innocent. Molly committed no crime. Her remarkable reputation is being unjustly tarnished by uninformed and incorrect assumptions."

Describing Wei as "a wonderful, caring and talented young woman with a bright future," the statement said the firestorm surrounding the charges were "a classic rush to judgment," adding Wei had been "maligned by unfounded attacks on her character."

"Neither Molly nor anyone else should be used to further the agenda of others," the statement said.

Ravi and Wei could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the invasion-privacy charges. A spokesman for the Middlesex County prosecutor's office told The Associated Press on Tuesday that no decision had been made on possible additional charges.

Middlesex County prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said at a news conference that he wouldn't rush the investigation, adding: "We need to determine the facts and then determine what the applicable law is."

Clementi's family has said little about his death, but in a statement last week they said: "We understand that our family's personal tragedy presents important legal issues for the country as well as for us. Our hope is that our family's personal tragedy will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity."

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