Tyler Clementi's Family to Sue Rutgers University After Suicide

The family plans to sue Rutgers after son Tyler Clementi killed himself.

December 22, 2010, 10:24 AM

Dec. 22, 2010 — -- The family of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who leapt to his death after allegedly being surreptitiously filmed during a gay sexual encounter, intends to sue the school for not doing enough to protect their son.

The Clementi family's lawyer Stephen DeFeo said that Rutgers "failed to implement or enforce policies that would have prevented or deterred such acts," according to The Associated Press. DeFeo filed notice with the University late last week. A call to DeFeo by ABC News wasn't immediately returned.

In a statement, Rutgers said that the family has filed a notice with the university to ensure that the family has legal options in the coming months.

"A Notice of Tort Claim is not a lawsuit. There is a statutory period of six months after such a filing for the family to decide if they want to file a lawsuit," said E.J. Miranda, Rutgers spokeswoman, in a statement.

"We at the university share the family's sense of loss of their son, who was a member of our community," said Miranda. "We also recognize that a grieving family may question whether someone or some institution could somehow have responsibility for their son's death. While the university understands this reaction, the university is not responsible for Tyler Clementi's suicide."

This is not the first legal action taken against the university since Clementi's September suicide. In October, Rutgers was asked by investigators to turn over e-mails exchanged between the institution and Clementi.

The Middlesex County prosecutor's office subpoenaed the New Jersey university for the e-mails, which may shed light on whether Clementi had requested a room change prior to the videotaping incident that was a precursor to his suicide, officials told ABC News.

A user on a gay website believed to be Clementi mentioned on an online message board that he had requested a new roommate after being spied on with a video camera by his college roommate.

Two students have been charged with invasion of privacy for allegedly streaming Clementi's sexual encounter with another man, and the prosecutor's office is contemplating adding bias charges.

Miranda said in a statement at the time that the Rutgers police department and the university are working with the prosecutor's office.

"In some instances a subpoena is required before the university can release confidential student records that are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act," Miranda said.

Lawyers for the two students accused in the privacy breach have spoken on behalf of their clients to pledge their innocence.

A lawyer for 18-year-old Dharun Ravi, who was roommates with Clementi, issued a statement urging the public not to "rush to charges" against his client.

"Unfortunately, a life has been lost," said attorney Steven Altman in the statement. "Out of respect to Tyler Clementi's family, this is not the time for explanations of defenses or justifications to be made public by an attorney."

"In regards to statements made by the prosecuting agencies of their continuing investigation and whether to file bias charges against Dharun Ravi, I am heartened to hear that they are taking their time to learn all the facts before rushing to judgment. I can only hope that the public will do the same," wrote Altman. "I am confident that nothing will be learned to justify, warrant or support the filing of any bias criminal complaint."

Molly Wei's attorney released a statement saying, "This is a tragic situation. But this tragedy has also unfairly led to rampant speculation and misinformation, which threaten to overwhelm the actual facts of the matter."

"Those true facts will reveal that Molly Wei is innocent," said attorneys Rubin Sinins and Eric Kahn. "Molly committed no crime. Her remarkable reputation is being unjustly tarnished by uninformed and incorrect assumptions."

The attorneys added that Wei is a "wonderful, caring and talented young woman with a bright future" who has been "maligned by unfounded attacks on her character."

A talented violinist, Clementi grew up in the New Jersey suburb of Ridgewood, where friends who knew him reeled from his sudden death.

Messages on social networking sites left by Ravi suggest that he may have had an aversion to Clementi's sexuality from the start of their freshman year.

Ravi tweeted on Aug. 22, "Found out my roommate is gay," according to Forbes.com, and then posted a link to a gay men's website where Ravi said Clementi had placed posts.

Gawker reported it was that same website, JustUsBoys, that Clementi was believed to have turned to once he found out that Ravi had secretly taped Clementi's sexual encounter with another man.

"So my question is what is next," the posted cti2mo, believed to be Clementi, wrote on Sept. 21. "I could just be more careful next time ... make sure to turn the cam away."

And then, in the same post, "I'm kind pissed at him (rightfully so I think, no?)"

Since Clementi's death, a message reading "in loving memory" appears next to the handle "cit2mo."

A Twitter page that appears to have been operated by Ravi but has since been taken offline shows messages in which the accused student takes credit for the alleged videotaping of Clementi.

Ravi apparently tweeted about his roommate on Sept. 19 before live streaming Clementi's sexual encounter, writing, "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into Molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

And two days later, another message went out to Ravi's 148 Twitter followers: "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again."

The next day, a chilling post from Clementi showed up on his Facebook page. He wrote in a message dated Sept. 22 at 8:42 p.m., "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

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