Dharun Ravi, charged with a hate crime that resulted in the suicide of his roommate Tyler Clementi at Rutgers, has been charged with tampering evidence because he attempted to delete text messages and tweets. Wow. From AP:
Accused of a hate crime for allegedly using a webcam to spy on his college roommate’s same-sex encounter, the roommate of Tyler Clementi is now also finding that it’s not just what you tweet, but also what you delete, that can get you in trouble.
Dharun Ravi, accused of using Twitter to invite people to watch Clementi’s most private moments, was charged last week with several counts of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. But perhaps just as surprising were the charges of evidence tampering that an indictment said stemmed from Ravi’s attempts to delete text messages and a Twitter post.
“It’s really novel way to take old-school evidence-tampering” charges into the newer spheres of social media and cyberspace, said Bradley S. Shear, a Bethesda, Md., attorney who counsels clients and blogs about social media and the law.
“It can help demonstrate that your virtual behavior, online activities, are just as important, if not more so, than everything you do in your everyday life,” he said.
Orin Kerr is not so persuaded:
“It’s fairly routine that until they become suspects, people are deleting electronic files,” said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University Law School professor. “It’s an understandable impulse to take it down.”
But Kerr said the key to the crime is intent.
“If someone deletes information because they don’t want it to be a news story, that’s different than trying to keep police from arresting them,” Kerr said.