by Tu Thanh Ha
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July 23, 2003
The parents of Ghyslain Raza, the Quebec teenager who became a celebrity this spring after classmates posted on the Internet a video of him mimicking a Star Wars character, allege that their son was so humiliated by the experience that he had to get psychiatric care.
The revelation is made in a lawsuit his parents have filed against the families of four classmates they accuse of maliciously turning their son into an object of mockery.
The video of Ghyslain, a portly 15-year-old pretending he is wielding a double-bladed light sabre, has been downloaded millions of times from several Web sites, which dubbed him Star Wars Kid.
Many other pranksters have created their own versions of the clip, with added video effects and sounds. One has him moving at fast-forward speed to goofy music from the Benny Hill Show. Other parodies were made with unflattering titles, such as Dork Clones, or mixed in with sounds of flatulence.
In a statement of claim filed last week in their home town of Trois-Rivières, the Razas say that Ghyslain was so widely mocked at his private high school that he dropped out.
He had to finish the session at Pavillon Arc-en-ciel, a ward specializing in child psychiatry at the Trois-Rivières Regional Hospital Centre.
Ghyslain "will be under psychiatric care for an indefinite amount of time," the statement of claim says.
"The stigma of mental illness can generate social prejudices having severe consequences" on the young man, including making it more difficult for him to enroll in the school of his choice or get a job, or even forcing him to change his name, the document added.
"Ghyslain had to endure, and still endures today, harassment and derision from his high-school mates and the public at large," it said.
The story has appeared in newspapers around the world, from the New York Times to the New Zealand Herald.
The Razas are now seeking $225,000 in damages from the parents of four teenagers: Michaël Caron, François Labarre, Jérôme Laflamme and Jean-Michel Rheault.
They say the four stole the video from a school filing cabinet where Ghyslain had stored a video camera he was using for a student project.
The lawsuit says the four young men then digitized the video before sending it out on the Internet in April, with messages inviting people to make insulting remarks about it.
The statement of claim includes lengthy excerpts that it says come from Internet chats in May between the pranksters.
Complete with misspellings, bad grammar and cyber-style acronyms, the exchanges are used in the statement of claim as evidence that the boys lacked remorse. They also brag in them that they evaded attempts by school officials to find the culprits behind Ghyslain's misfortunes.
Ghyslain's parents and lawyers would not speak to reporters yesterday. The parents of the defendants either did not answer calls or refused to comment because the dispute was before the courts.
While the video of Ghyslain's antics generated some derisive Internet comments, others felt bad and started raising money for him. One group collected more than $3,000 (U.S.), which they used to buy him an Apple iPod portable music player.
In the excerpts from Internet chats filed in court, the four appear to be plotting ways to get the gifts sent to another address so they can keep the iPod for themselves.