Rutgers Trial: The Political Firestorm Before the Indictment

Kaplan, known as a cautious, button-down prosecutor who avoids the press at any cost, suddenly faced a frenzied national media descending upon him. The outside world was demanding a hate crime, so, he told reporters he had expanded the investigation.

"The initial focus of this investigation has been to determine who was responsible for remotely activating the camera in the dormitory room of the student and then transmitting the encounter on the internet,'' Kaplan said. "Now that two individuals have been charged with invasion of privacy, we will be making every effort to assess whether bias played a role in the incident, and, if so, we will bring appropriate charges."

Those words opened a media floodgate of distortion. News stories and broadcasts now reported that Ravi had recorded the episode and transmitted it on the internet. In fact, Ravi and Wei had glimpsed at just a few seconds of Clementi and his companion kissing on a livestream connection to a single computer. (That basic fact would not be revealed until the end of October.)

The same day, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie teared up as he spoke to reporters about the case in Trenton.

"As the father of a 17-year-old, I can't imagine what those parents are feeling today -- I can't," Christie said. Then referring to Ravi and Wei, added, "I have to tell you, I don't know how those two folks are going to sleep at night."

Not to be outdone in the court of public sentiment, New Jersey lawmakers promised new laws to address high-tech bullying, which they delivered two months later.

"Tyler Clementi is far from the first victim of bullying in the internet age, but we must resolve to make him the last," said New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, before the state Senate held a moment of silence for Clementi. (Sweeney had come under public fire months earlier for refusing to vote on a gay marriage bill.)

The next day, Sept. 30, talk show host Ellen Degeneres weighed in on her show:

"I am devastated over the death of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi. If you don't know, Tyler was a bright student at Rutgers University whose life was senselessly cut short. He was outed as being gay on the internet and he killed himself. Something must be done."

Stars such as singers Paula Abdul, Ciara and Nicki Minaj would soon join the chorus. Soon after, President Obam and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released their own videos, reacting to Clementi and the other suicides, repeating the It Gets Better mantra.

Lost in the din were the less than predictable sentiments of William Dobbs, a longtime gay activist:

"The media attention and public outrage have been swift, with loud clamoring for the heads of the two other Rutgers students whom popular sentiment holds responsible for the freshman's death," he wrote in an Oct. 10 letter to the New York Times. "The depth of this tragedy is not a license to destroy individuals, to scrap due process and fairness."

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