NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBS/WCBS) The two students accused of broadcasting Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi's sexual encounter on the Internet could face additional charges, according to prosecutors.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan said Thursday that more charges were possible under New Jersey's hate-crimes law.
"We will be making every effort to assess whether bias played a role in the incident, and, if so, we will bring appropriate charges," he said in a statement.
Dharun Ravi and fellow Rutgers freshman Molly Wei, both 18, have been charged with invading Clementi's privacy. Middlesex County prosecutors say the pair used a webcam to surreptitiously transmit a live image of Clementi having sex with a man on Sept. 19 and that Ravi tried to webcast a second encounter on Sept. 21, the day before Clementi's suicide.
On Thursday, authorities officially identified Clementi as the man recovered Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River just north of the George Washington Bridge. Spokeswoman Grace Burgess says he drowned and had impact injuries on his torso.
WCBS reports that police have received at least one call from a gay rights group requesting that the charges against the students be upgraded, but one legal expert said upping the charges might be problematic.
"There would have to be specific evidence of knowledge by the actors
that the victim, this boy, was vulnerable, had emotional problems,
would likely and foreseeably react in the way he did," lawyer Gerald
Lefcourt told the station.
Additionally, there is the question of motive.
A person can be found guilty of a bias crime in New Jersey if the jury agrees that he or she committed a crime because of a belief that the victim is a member of a protected group, such as a racial minority or gay.
Gay rights groups say Clementi's suicide makes him a national example of a problem they are increasingly working to combat: young people who kill themselves after being tormented over their sexuality.
Collecting or viewing sexual images without consent is a fourth-degree crime. Transmitting them is a third-degree crime with a maximum prison term of five years.
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