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Roommate of Rutgers student who committed suicide pleads not guilty

By Nina Golgowski, CNN
Dharun Ravi, right, is charged with streaming the footage of his roommate, Tyler Clementi, during a sexual encounter.
Dharun Ravi, right, is charged with streaming the footage of his roommate, Tyler Clementi, during a sexual encounter.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Teen charged with advertising, streaming video of gay sex
  • He faces 15 charges of hate crimes and evidence tampering
  • Third roommate took plea deal to testify against him

New York (CNN) -- Defense attorneys entered a not guilty plea Monday for the roommate of the Rutgers University student who committed suicide following a candid online broadcast of his sexual encounter with another man, prosecutors say.

Dharun Ravi, 19, is charged with streaming the footage of his roommate, Tyler Clementi, 18, engaging in a physical relationship with another man in their shared dormitory last September.

According to prosecutors, the video was allegedly accessed from another room and advertised on Twitter, providing "others an opportunity to view the encounter," Middlesex County (New Jersey) Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan said in a statement.

Clementi later killed himself, jumping from the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey.

Ravi faces a 15-count indictment of hate crime charges involving invasion of privacy and evidence tampering after prosecutors say he tried to stage a cover-up, deleting the previous Twitter post and replacing it with another intended to mislead investigators as well as asking witnesses not to testify against him. Defense attorney Steve Altman was not immediately available for comment.

A second student charged, Molly Wei, 19, pled not guilty earlier this month in two counts of invasion of privacy. She reached a plea deal agreeing to testify against Ravi, who allegedly set up the room's camera. Should Wei complete a three-year program on cyberbullying and alternate and cultural lifestyles, as well as 300 hours of community services without any additional legal troubles, the invasion of privacy charges for allegedly watching the video will be dropped, the prosecutors office said.

The case exposed the issue of bullying on school campuses and has fed anti-bullying efforts across the nation.

In October, less than a month after Clementi's suicide, President Barack Obama released a taped video message condemning such acts. "You are not alone," the president said. "You did not do anything wrong.

"You didn't do anything to deserve being bullied and there is a whole world waiting for you filled with possibilities," Obama said.

In November, Clementi's family consented to the use of his name on federal anti-harassment legislation called the "Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act." The proposed law would require schools that receive federal student aid "to create policies prohibiting the harassment of any student," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey.

CNN's Jesse Solomon and Nina Raja contributed to this report.

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