Updated: June 29, 2012 8:14AM
RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — The family of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi said they have come to believe he killed himself in part because of his roommate used a webcam to see him kissing another man.
“It was the humiliation that his roommates and his dorm-mates were watching him in a very intimate act. And that they were laughing behind his back,” his mother, Jane Clementi said. “The last thing that Tyler looked at before he left the dorm room for the bridge (he jumped from) was the Twitter page, where (his roommate) was announcing Tyler’s activities.”
Jane Clementi, her husband and one of their surviving sons talked about Tyler’s death and how their views on homosexuality have changed when they appeared Thursday night on NBC’s “Rock Center” in the first interview the family has given since the bias intimidation trial of the 18-year-old’s roommate.
The roommate, 20-year-old Dharun Ravi, was convicted in March of all 15 criminal charges he faced, including bias intimidation. Though a judge could have sent him to prison for up to 10 years, he sentenced him to 30 days in jail. Ravi spent 20 days behind bars after getting credit for good behavior and working.
The case attracted national attention after Clementi’s suicide in September 2010, just days after the spying. With his death, Clementi became a symbol of the consequences of harsh treatment of young gays. Ravi, who apologized for his actions last month, was not charged with causing the death of Clementi, who jumped from the George Washington Bridge.
His parents, evangelical Christians, said their views on homosexuality have shifted since their son’s death.
They say they went from struggling to accept that their son was gay when he came out to them just before starting at Rutgers to embracing that some people are gay.
“Sin needs to be taken out of homosexuality,” said Tyler Clementi’s father, Joe Clementi. “Our children need to understand — and adults need to understand — that they’re not ... broken.”
James Clementi, who is also gay, said he believes his brother may have been depressed — but that the webcam spying exacerbated his problems and contributed to his suicide.