Tyler Clementi’s parents say they don’t want harsh punishment for classmates

Tyler Clementi

Associated Press

NEWARK, New Jersey — The parents of a university student who killed himself after authorities said his intimate encounter with a man was captured by a webcam want his classmates’ invasion-of-privacy cases prosecuted, but they don’t want them to receive harsh punishment.

Tyler Clementi’s parents, Jane and Joseph Clementi, issued a statement Tuesday, six months after he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge that connects New Jersey and New York.

“The past six months have been the most difficult and painful of our lives,” they said. “We have done our best to deal with the grief and pain of the death of our son Tyler, in awful circumstances while dealing with the crush of media attention, the pending criminal investigations and, of course, our own unanswered questions.”

The Clementis have not granted any interviews, but have released a few statements to reporters. The latest one was sent first to The Star-Ledger of Newark.

Clementi’s roommate at Rutgers University, Dharun Ravi, and classmate Molly Wei are each charged with two counts of invasion of privacy. Authorities said that last September, they used a webcam to watch part of Clementi’s encounter with another man. Within days, Clementi killed himself.

Family attorney Paul Mainardi said the Clementis feel it’s important to establish it was not “a college prank.”

Gay rights and anti-bullying groups seized on the suicide and made it a symbol of the movement to take bullying, particularly of young gay people, seriously.

The charges against Ravi and Wei do not link the alleged spying to Clementi’s suicide.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has weighed additional bias intimidation charges, but no decision on those more serious charges has been announced. Mainardi said he believes the investigation is substantially complete.

Lawyers for the students, both of whom have since withdrawn from Rutgers, have said their clients are not guilty of any crimes. The lawyers did not immediately return calls on Tuesday.

The fallout from the case has been immense. The Point, a scholarship-granting group based in Los Angeles, has announced a scholarship in Clementi’s memory.

The Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra and the Bergen Youth Orchestra, where Clementi, a violinist, had been a member, have had performances in his memory and named concertmaster chairs after him.

His parents say they are also starting a foundation that would raise public awareness of bullying, assist vulnerable young people and encourage research and awareness of the effects of electronic media.

Rutgers has decided to allow men and women to be roommates in parts of certain dorms — largely as a way to make gay, lesbian and transgender students more comfortable.

And celebrities from President Barack Obama to entertainer Ellen DeGeneres have campaigned publicly against bullying.

—  John Wright