Tyler Clementi's Family Hopes Son's Death Will Serve as Call for Compassion

Dharun Ravi apparently tweeted Tyler Clementi's sexual orientation in August.

September 29, 2010, 3:37 PM

Oct. 1, 2010— -- The parents of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi said that they hope their son's death "will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity."

"The outpouring of emotion and support from our friends, community and family -- and from people across the country -- has been humbling and deeply moving," said Joe and Jane Clementi in the statement issued by their lawyer. "We thank each of you from the bottom of our hearts."

The Clementi family said that the funeral services would not be open to the public and asked that people respect their privacy.

But at Rutgers, where Clementi had been a student for only a month, a public outpouring for the 18-year-old was already under way.

A moment of silence will be held before the nationally televised Rutgers University football game Saturday to mourn Clementi, who committed suicide after he was allegedly taped by his roommate during a sexual encounter with another man.

Many of the school's students had already paid homage to Clementi today with a makeshift memorial in the middle of school's New Brunswick, N.J., campus. Despite a pounding rain, students arrived dressed in black and left flowers and notes to Clementi.

A photograph of Clementi playing his violin quickly became engulfed with messages from those who knew the 18-year-old.

One friend wrote on construction paper left at the memorial, "Tyler, I wish you called me...people were willing to talk..."

In the days since Clementi's death, a series of tweets and Internet postings have revealed that Clementi's sexual orientation may have been an issue with his roommate, Dharun Ravi, from the start.

Ravi and another classmate, Molly Wei, now face several charges of invasion of privacy following what prosecutors say was a surreptitious filming of Clementi in his own dorm room, a recording that they then allegedly broadcast live on the Internet.

New Jersey authorities are still investigating the events that led to Clementi's death are trying to determine whether they can pursue more serious charges against Ravi and Wei.

On the eve of homecoming weekend at Rutgers, it's not the match up against Tulane Unversity that students are talking about, but the shocking suicide of a student who had been on campus for just more than a month. Students say everyone has an opinion on what should happen to Ravi and Wei.

One student who showed up to tell Clementi's parents that they are in her prayers told ABC News that she hopes Ravi gets "the worst...a long time in jail."

"He deserves to get a little suffering," she said.

Lawyers for Ravi and Wei have not returned messages left by ABC News but Ravi's attorney, Steve Altman, told the New Jersey Star-Ledger that he does not think his client can be held criminally responsible for Clementi's death.

"To my knowledge, whatever the allegations are that justify the criminal complaints filed against the students, would not justify under either legal or common law any culpability for the suicide," Altman said.

Politicians, Celebrities Sound Off on Tyler Clementi's Suicide

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 filmed 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."

Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, who resigned from office after disclosing he was gay, said he was "filled with great sadness and pain" after learning of Clementi's suicide and the online torment he faced.

"Coming to terms with your sexual orientation is very much an individual journey. ... You say to yourself, 'I'm different. I'm distinct,'" he said. ""For some gay Americans it's still that much difficult."

The explosion of social media in the last several years has made it that much easier, he said, for gay youth to become a target.

"I think this is actually a very difficult time," he said.

McGreevey said he'd like to see more adults held responsible for the bullying of gay and lesbian youth, much in the same way children are protected against racial or religious discrimination.

"Authority has to instruct children that it's not only morally wrong," he said, "but it won't be tolerated and there are consequences of that happening."

Ellen DeGeneres broke into tears talking about Clementi's death on her talk show Thursday.

"I'm devastated," she said, adding that Clementi's life was "senselessly cut short" and urging society to consider teen bullying an epidemic that warrnats attention.

"This needs to be a wakeup call for everyone," said DeGeneres.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also spoke out, calling Clementi's suicide an unspeakable tragedy and saying on Thursday that he couldn't imagine how the two students accused of secretly filming Clementi could sleep at night "knowing that they contributed to driving that young man" to suicide.

The governor spoke hours after a body that was pulled from the Hudson River was identified as Clementi.

The medical examiner's office said an autopsy revealed the 18-year-old had drowned and suffered blunt impact injuries to his torso.

Authorities Consider Whether Tyler Clementi's Suicide Driven by Hate Crime

Christie grew emotional when discussing Clementi's death.

"As the father of a 17-year-old … I can't imagine what those parents are feeling today, I can't. You send your son to school to get an education with great hopes and aspirations, and I can't imagine what those parents are feeling today," he said.

The governor also wondered about the two students accused of taping Clementi, bragging about it online and then trying to catch him on video a second time.

"There might be some people who can take that type of treatment and deal with it, and there might be others, as this young man obviously was, who was much more greatly affected by it," Christie said. "I have to tell you, I don't know how those two folks are going to sleep at night, knowing that they contributed to driving that young man to that alternative."

The governor said he would not push to have the case prosecuted as a hate crime and would leave that up to the prosecutor. Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan indicated Thursday he would consider bias as an aggravating factor in bringing charges against the two students.

"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,'' Kaplan said.

Clementi's friends have been reeling since news of the suicide was confirmed Wednesday by the student's family.

"I am just devastated that this happened, especially to such an amazing person," Christina Guentert wrote to ABC News in an e-mail. "Tyler was a remarkable person in many ways; he was always kind, generous, sweet and loyal.

"He always had a smile on his face, and would joke around with me during class even on bad days," wrote Guentert, who went to school with Clementi for seven years in Ridgewood, N.J. "Tyler came off as innocent and sweet, the kind of person that you could rely on and go to for anything."

Clementi was enrolled in Rutger's music program and was an accomplished violinist.

"Not only was Tyler incredibly intelligent, but he was an amazing violin player," said Guentert. "He stood out at every school concert, and never seemed to get nervous. The music really came from his heart."

Friends of Clementi's said that he'd never had a girlfriend in high school and had never come out as gay. He was always focused on his role in the school orchestra, said friend Rob Righthand.

"He was one of those kids who never had a girlfriend and never had a boyfriend. You just thought he wasn't open for dating or anything like that," said Righthand.

"He was an incredible violin player. That was his No. 1 thing," said Righthand.

ABC News' Linsey Davis and Jerika Richardson contributed to this report.