Defendant's views debated in webcam spying trial
By GEOFF MULVIHILL
Originally printed 3/1/2012 (Issue 2009 - Between The Lines News)
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) -
The trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate liaison with another man opened Friday with questions about whether the defendant had a problem with gay people.
A prosecutor told jurors that Dharun Ravi, now 19, spied on roommate Tyler Clementi and acted maliciously "to deprive him of his dignity." Clementi, in an act that sparked a national conversation about bullying of young gays, committed suicide days after the alleged spying in September 2010.
Ravi's lawyer insisted his client isn't bigoted. "He may be stupid at times," defense attorney Steven Altman said in his opening statement. "He's an 18-year-old boy, but he's certainly not a criminal."
Early witnesses testified that Ravi expressed discomfort about having a gay roommate, but they didn't know him to have a problem with gay people generally.
His attitude matters in the trial because the 15 charges Ravi faces include bias intimidation, which can carry a 10-year prison sentence. To get a conviction on that charge, prosecutors must persuade jurors that Ravi acted out of bias against gays.
Ravi also is charged with invasion of privacy. And he is accused of trying to cover his tracks by taking measures including deleting a Twitter message and instructing a witness what to tell police. He is not charged with Clementi's death.
In her half-hour opening statement, First Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Julia McClure did not mention Clementi's suicide.
But she said that Ravi's actions were intended to victimize his roommate.
"They were planned to expose Tyler Clementi's sexual orientation and they were planned to expose Tyler Clementi's private sexual activity," she said.
Altman said his client saw only seconds' worth of images of Clementi and another man hugging.
"Dharun never intimidated anybody, you'll see that," Altman said. "He never transmitted any images. He never harassed his roommate, he never ridiculed his roommate, he never said anything bad about his roommate."
McClure tried to dispel that. "The defendant's acts were not a prank, they were not an accident and they were not a mistake," she said. "They were mean-spirited, they were malicious and they were criminal."
It wasn't just that he used his webcam to see what Clementi was up to, she said; he also posted on Twitter to tell others about it and later told them how they'd be able watch a second liaison.
McClure said Ravi began telling friends that he was unhappy he'd have a gay roommate soon after he received his Rutgers housing assignment in August 2010.
The first witness called by prosecutors was Austin Chung, a high school friend of Ravi's who testified that Ravi told him about seeing Clementi "making out with some dude" via webcam. On cross-examination, Chung, a student at Stevens Institute of Technology, said he didn't know Ravi to have a problem with gay people.
Three other witnesses, all Rutgers students, followed Chung on the stand.
Altman asked each if they knew Ravi to speak against gays. All said he didn't.
But one, Cassandra Cicco, said Ravi told her that he streamed the video to see whether Clementi was gay _ as he suspected.
"He said he didn't have any problem with homosexuals and in fact he had a really good friend who was homosexual," Cicco said.
She said she and a group of a half-dozen students were shown a one-second snippet of streaming video. She wanted to see it, she said, out of curiosity.
She said that there were two men in the view and at least one had his shirt off.
"Someone pressed `end' on the feed and it ended abruptly and we're like, that happened," she said.
Another student who lived in the dorm said Ravi told him he'd seen Clementi with another man on his webcam.
"It was pretty crazy and scandalous," Alvin Artha said. "He described the guy he invited over as older. And that was more the scandalous part than that he had invited another male."
The case was so well known that it took four days to seat a jury of 16 _ including four alternates. Just before opening statements, one more juror was excused after telling the judge that he needed to change an answer he'd given in a questionnaire.
- Bishops Scrap Welcome To Gays In Sign Of Split
- Federal Judge Strikes Down Arizona Same-Sex Marriage Ban
- October Surprise At The Supreme Court
- Spirit Day Observed Oct. 16
- Alaska Will Issue Marriage Licenses To Gay Couples
- Bishops Say Gays Have Gifts To Offer Church
- Oklahoma Gay Couples Can Now File For Benefits
- National Coming Out Day 2014
- Supreme Court Denies Seven Appeals In Five States
- New York Soon To Change Gender Options On Birth Certificates
- Supreme Court Rejects Five Gay Marriage Appeals
- MY2024 Declaration Calls For Online Conversation
- 9th Circuit Strikes Bans Adds Five More States
- Revisiting Annual Reminders, Nearly 50 Years Later
- The Financial Penalty Of Being LGBT In America
- Freedom To Marry Launches National TV AD
- Two LGBTQ Trailblazers Receive MacArthur Fellowships Totaling $1.25 Million
- In Apology To Trans Community, HRC Pledges Push For Broad LGBT Bill
- Detroit Marriott Troy
- Co-Op Tax & Accounting
- Paskel Tashman & Walker
- Campus; Student and Alumni Groups
- MSU GLBT Alumni Association
- D’Amato’s Neighborhood Restaurant
- Uptown Bookstores
- Legal Organizations
- Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, Midwest Regional Office
- Religious & Spiritual
- Reconciling Works
- Rental Service
- C & N Party Rentals
- Tai Chi
- Taoist Tai Chi Society of the USA
Enter contests to win great prizes like CDs, DVDs, concert tickets and more
- Q&A: Annie Lennox On Her Legacy, Why Beyonce Is 'Feminist Lite'
- Q&A: Getting To The Core Of Nick Jonas: Abs, Album & That Gay Striptease 'They Made Me Do'
- GOP Hopeful Wants 'Christians' Fleeing MI If Gays Get Civil Rights
- Creep of the Week: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
- Q&A: Jenny McCarthy Talks Feminism, Feeling Trans 'Inside' & Sticking To Her Truth
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!
One of the Democratic Party's main objectives in this election season is to get more people out to vote. In 2010, nearly 1 million fewer Democrats went to the polls than voted in 2008. Party chairman Lon Johnson said last month that if at least 200,000 of those people turn out in 2014, Democrats will win.View More Pride Source Votes
This Week's Issue
Download or view this week's print issue today!
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!