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February 22, 2012

Tyler Clementi trial begins

(UPI) -- A New Jersey judge Tuesday dismissed 57 potential jurors in the case of a university student accused of spying on a gay roommate, leading to his suicide.

Dharun Ravi, 19, faces 15 counts of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy for allegedly using a webcam to spy on Rutgers University roommate Tyler Clementi, 18, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge and died Sept. 22, 2010.

Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman excused 57 of the 190 veniremen who showed up Friday and completed a 17-page questionnaire to weed out those who had already formed an opinion in the case as jury selection got under way.

Berman also said he would decide three motions, including one dealing with an error in the indictment that could open Ravi to a longer prison term if convicted, The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported. He faces a possible 10 years in prison if convicted of intimidation.

Clementi's death struck a chord with anti-bullying and gay rights activists alike, ABC News reported. While Clementi's death has been called legally irrelevant to the case, Ravi still faces charges of invasion of privacy, witness tampering, hindering prosecution and bias intimidation.

Lawyers anticipate the case to be difficult. Ravi, who is an Indian citizen and could be deported, turned down a plea deal in December that would have spared him jail time in lieu of 600 hours of community service.

After discovering Clementi was gay, Ravi allegedly set up a secret webcam in their dorm room on Sept. 19, 2010, which captured Clementi sharing an intimate moment with another male student. While videos were never posted online, Ravi publicly tweeted about the incident, and evidence allegedly indicates Clementi acknowledged the posts. Clementi jumped off of the George Washington Bridge and died Sept. 22, 2010.

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