NJ builds cover-up case in webcam spying trial

AP News
Posted: Mar 01, 2012 5:05 PM
NJ builds cover-up case in webcam spying trial

A Rutgers University police officer told jurors Thursday that he knocked on the door of a dorm room shortly before 10 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2010, for a well-being check on one of the residents, Tyler Clementi.

The other freshman who lived in the cramped room answered, the officer testified, and said that when he'd last seen Clementi five hours earlier, everything was normal.

The jury will likely hear otherwise in coming days in the trial of Dharun Ravi, who is accused of using a webcam to spy on Clementi's intimate encounter with another man. Ravi faces 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors appear to be using Thursday's testimony from Officer Krzysztof Kowalczyk, which lasted less than 45 minutes, to lay groundwork for the case there was a cover-up _ a major theme during the fifth day testimony in the trial.

The jury hasn't yet heard a timeline that is laid out in legal filings but which might help the prosecution's case.

According to those documents, Clementi posted to Facebook at 8:42 p.m.: "Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry." After that, he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

And Ravi sent Clementi long text messages at 8:46 p.m. and then 10 minutes later describing the use of his webcam as "a petty misunderstanding."

Kowalczyk said Ravi didn't mention anything about that _ just that he saw Clementi at about 4:30 p.m. when his roommate finished the day's classes and dropped off his book bag in the room.

The officer, who didn't say what led to his being dispatched to the dorm room at 9:46 p.m., said Ravi did volunteer one other piece of information: "He had stated that an individual had stayed in the dorm room with Tyler a couple days prior," Kowalczyk said.

Prosecutor Julia McClure asked if Ravi mentioned that the guest came back the night before the officer came to the door. He hadn't, Kowalczyk said. Authorities say Ravi used a webcam to spy on the man's first visit and attempted to do so again on the second. Witnesses have said only seconds of the streaming video was viewed and that it included nothing more graphic than two shirtless men kissing.

Kowalczyk's testimony suggested that Ravi didn't bring up another matter: A dorm resident assistant had testified that he spoke with Ravi earlier on Sept. 22 on Clementi's request to change rooms.

The testimony from the officer was the second instance Thursday in which prosecutors seemed to be building a cover-up case.

They also interviewed a university administrator who said that she looked at Ravi's Twitter posts the morning of Sept. 23 _ the day after Clementi went missing.

Jennifer Hellstern, an assistant director of residential life, read Twitter posts for Ravi's that were posted nine hours later _ or within a few hours after Kowalczyk left his room

One warned: "don't you dare videochat me."

Gone was a post with similar words that some students had earlier testified Ravi made that on Sept. 21: "I dare you to videochat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again."

Jurors have not yet heard from the witness who has generating the most intense media interest: the other man in the webstream. In court papers, he's been identified only by the initials M.B.

The judge is protecting his identity because he's could be a victim of a sex crime.

McClure wouldn't say whether the man would be called Friday.


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