Prosecution rests in case of Rutgers student accused of spying on roommate

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2012 1:09 PM

By Jonathan Allen

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey (Reuters) - The prosecution rested its case on Thursday against a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to view the gay sexual encounter of his roommate who committed suicide a few days later.

The defense for Dharun Ravi, 20, was slated to present its side beginning on Friday before the jury in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

Ravi's roommate at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi, 18, killed himself on September 22, 2010, after learning Ravi covertly saw him kissing another man and appeared to encourage others to do so.

Ravi faces 15 counts of invasion of privacy, witness and evidence tampering and bias intimidation, which is a hate crime. If convicted, he faces the possibility of 10 years in prison.

He is not charged in Clementi's suicide, which was widely portrayed as a tragic example of bullying and the toll it too often takes on gay teenagers. Prosecutors say Ravi spied on Clementi and intimidated him for being gay; the defense says Ravi behaved childishly but did not commit any crime.

Taking the stand will be several character witnesses for Ravi, defense attorneys said. It remained unclear whether Ravi would take the witness stand.

Among those who testified for the prosecution was the man seen in the webcam with Clementi. Identified only as M.B., he said he had noticed the webcam while in a "compromising" position with Clementi.

M.B. testified he met Clementi in August 2010 through an online social network for gay men.

Learning that his roommate watched him via webcam on September 19, 2010, Clementi asked the university to switch to a single room. He jumped off the George Washington Bridge three days after the webcam incident.

Other prosecution witnesses were students and friends of Ravi's, a handful of whom said they watched Clementi's encounter via webcam for a few seconds and only saw two men kissing.

Prosecutors played a videotaped interview of Ravi in which he tells police he violated his roommate's privacy but meant no harm. He said he was concerned about the security of his belongings while Clementi was entertaining a visitor.

Police in the video also questioned Ravi about a Twitter posting in which he mentioned a "viewing party." Ravi said the posting had been a joke.

Jurors heard about a message Ravi sent Clementi apologizing for the webcam and saying his actions had been "good natured."

It was unclear whether Clementi saw the message from Ravi, as it was sent just about the same time Clementi posted a Facebook message saying: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Paul Thomasch)