Bullies. Criminals. Voyeurs.
These are not the people friends of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei know, no matter what labels are being tossed around in the media – or what police are saying, according to their pals.
“He is a very good kid, very respectful,” says one of Ravi’s neighbors, Clara Sreeran of Ridgewood, N.J. “It’s just a bad mistake.”
The two Rutgers students who allegedly bullied Tyler Clementi before he committed suicide, have remained silent, but supporters of Ravi and Wei are speaking out on their behalf.
Ravi, who was Clementi’s roommate at Rutgers, and Wei, both 18, were charged with invasion of privacy after allegedly live streaming on the Internet a sexual encounter between Clementi and another man.
Not Deserving of Extra Charges
Ravi’s lawyer has said his client does not deserve additional bias charges being contemplated by authorities.
“[Ravi] is not the type of person who ever bullied anyone,” says another friend. “I can’t recall any time he was mean.”
Many friends are still trying to reconcile the accusations with the bright young students shown in the photos above smiling for their high school yearbook.
Rayna Sua Guo, who has known both Ravi and Wei since the seventh grade, tells PEOPLE she’s shocked by their actions.
“I couldn’t believe that two people I had known so well for so long could do something like that,” she wrote in an email. Although she says there is “no excuse” for their actions, she adds, “They didn’t think about the consequences or rather didn’t expect their actions to result in the death of one of their peers.”
Like Ravi, Wei is also known as a dutiful and hardworking student, according to those who know her. “She is one of the nicest and most caring people I know,” says one pal. “She never picks fights with anyone nor was she mean to anyone. … She’s not one of those girls who starts drama. She’s not someone who talks behind people’s backs.”
Adds fellow Rutgers student Elise Quigley, “The only thing I can make of it is that she was at the wrong place with the wrong people.” Yet another notes, “It was purely an innocent prank that went completely wrong. She never set up the camera. She [also] never told Dharun not to do this.”
Facebook pages such as “Molly Wei Is Innocent” and “Drop All Charges Against Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei” have been established as an online gesture of support. But they’ve garnered both positive and negative responses.
Of Wei, one post reads, “She did not know what he [Ravi] was intending to do with her computer until he had already started streaming the video with her computer.” Another says that Wei “had the power to stop the video being streamed.”
One Facebook user summed up the tragedy of the situation, writing, “It is sad that these 3 young people’s lives will never be the same. One has ended and the 2 others will be forever linked the one who lost his.”
• Reporting by DIANE HERBST, NICOLE WEISENSEE EGAN, LESLEY MESSER and CHARLOTTE TRIGGS