On September 22, 2010, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi said goodbye to the world with this Facebook update: “Jumping off the G-W Bridge. Sorry." Search and rescue teams pulled Clementi’s body out of the Hudson River a few days later.
His parents are still trying to come to terms with the death of their beloved son. Jane Clementi, Tyler’s mother, told CNN's Jason Carroll in an interview, “I have gone over it many, many times in my head and I really cannot come up with a ... just cause. There is no good reason for what Tyler did. It was something he did do, and something that cannot be changed, and there is no good reason.”
Clementi was born in Buffalo, New York, but raised in Ridgewood, New Jersey. His parents, Jane and Joe, still live in Ridgewood, and they have recently started a foundation in Clementi's honor named The Tyler Clementi Foundation, which aims to promote acceptance of gay teenagers.
SEE THE DOCUMENTS: New Jersey v. Dharun indictment
Clementi's freshman year
Clementi enrolled in his freshman year classes at Rutgers University just a month before his suicide. His parents describe him as a shy, modest and passionate kid. He was also a gifted violinst and was accepted into the graduate-level symphony orchestra, but Clementi planned to major in biology, which was a surprise to his parents.
“He said music isn't going to be my major, you know, that's not going to be his career. 'I will always play it and I will always be passionate about it but I'm not going to have that as a career,'” his mother said.
Clementi had another revelation for his parents: He was gay.
“I told Tyler, I said, ‘You need to be careful about it because people, some people won't be as accepting.’ And then he said that he would be,” she said.
As a new student at Rutgers, Clementi was randomly assigned to live in the Davidson Hall dormitory with another incoming freshman, Dharun Ravi.
Rutgers sent out dorm assignments the first week of August, and court documents say Ravi began researching his new roommate almost immediately. There’s evidence that Ravi sent messages to a friend that indicate he had figured out that Clementi was gay by August 22, 2010. “What happens if I catch him with a dude in my room?” wrote Ravi in one message.
SEE THE DOCUMENTS: The prosecution's statement of facts
The prosecution's case
On September 19, Clementi asked Ravi to leave their dorm room for a while so he could have a friend over. Ravi agreed and went to his friend Molly Wei’s room where he remotely accessed the computer in his and Clementi’s dorm room and used the webcam to watch as his roommate had a romantic moment with another man, prosecutors said.
Ravi tweeted: “Roommate asked for room ‘til midnight. Went into Molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude, yay."
Ravi's defense team says he and Wei only watched Clementi and his friend for "two seconds." Prosecutors said the two watched more than that, and saw the men kissing and groping each other -- both shirtless, but otherwise dressed.
SEE THE DOCUMENTS: The defense’s statement of facts
Despite some reporting on the case, investigators say Ravi’s webcam video was never distributed to anyone; the only people to ever see the video were Ravi and Wei. Ravi’s action of showing Wei the video is the criminal basis for the invasion of privacy claim he is facing at trial.
The next day, Clementi texted a friend and said he knew Ravi had spied on him and tweeted about it.
In the early hours of September 21, Clementi filed an online complaint with the residence hall, asking for a single room because his roommate had used a webcam to spy on him. Prosecutors said the resident assistant talked to both Clementi and Ravi separately and offered to let Clementi stay in his room if he wanted to, but he turned down the offer.
Later that day, Clementi asked Ravi for the private use of their dorm room again. Ravi agreed and tweeted: "Anyone with i-chat, I dare you to video chat me between 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again."
That night, when Ravi attempted to remotely access his computer's webcam again, it didn't work. Prosecutors said Clementi texted a friend that he shut down Ravi's computer by turning off the power strip. Clementi's date arrived at 10:19 p.m., and just after midnight on September 22, he emailed the dorm supervisors about his situation again. Later that day, Clementi killed himself by jumping off the George Washington bridge, into the dark waters of the Hudson River.
The investigation that followed led to criminal charges against Ravi and Wei. Wei pleaded guilty to two counts of invasion of privacy. But those charges may be dropped if she completes a counseling program and testifies against Ravi.
Ravi is facing 15 charges, including bias intimidation, which means he is accused of invading Clemenit’s privacy with the intent to intimidate the victim over his sexual orientation. He’s also charged with witness and evidence tampering, though neither Ravi or Wei face any charges related to Clementi’s death.
The bias intimidation charge is the most serious one he is facing. If convicted, Ravi could be sentenced to as long as 10 years in prison. He previously turned down a plea deal, which would have allowed him to avoid the possibility of jail entirely.
His attorney, Steven Altman, said that’s not the issue, “If you want to know why he rejected the plea, simple answer, simple principle of law, simple principle of life. He's innocent. He's not guilty.”
Where we are now
On Friday, dozens of potential jurors will be taking the first step in the jury selection process for Rutgers suicide trial. The judge will handout questionnaires to the potential jurors to gauge their knowledge of the case and potential biases that could prevent some of them from serving on the jury.
Cameras will be allowed in the courtroom for Ravi's trial, and In Session and HLN will be covering this trial live so stay tuned.