Arts & Entertainment
Rutgers student was 'uncomfortable' with roommate
By GEOFF MULVIHILL
Originally printed 3/1/2012 (Issue 2009 - Between The Lines News)
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J (AP) - Jurors in the trial of a student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate kissing another man can't hear about an email passage in which the alleged victim referred to the defendant's behavior as "wildly inappropriate," a judge decided Wednesday.
But the jury can hear about another part of the email in which Tyler Clementi said he believed his privacy had been violated, the judge ruled. The email said Clementi was "extremely uncomfortable sharing a room with someone who would act in this manner."
Clementi killed himself shortly afterward.
Raahi Grover, a resident assistant in the young men's dorm, said Wednesday he had received the email from Clementi. Defense lawyers wanted to exclude it from testimony, arguing jurors should not hear that Clementi said he believed roommate Dharun Ravi should be punished.
Ravi, 20, is on trial on charges including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation over allegations that he secretly watched Clementi's encounter with another man in their dorm room in September 2010.
Student Lokesh Ohja testified Wednesday that he helped Ravi adjust the webcam to get a better view of Clementi's bed on Sept. 22. Authorities say Ravi's attempt to spy on his roommate that day - the day before Clementi's suicide - was thwarted when his computer was unplugged.
The other man allegedly viewed on webcam, who has been identified only as M.B., could testify soon, possibly Thursday. He has been mentioned often in the first three days of testimony in the trial.
Little is known about M.B. from court filings, but witnesses have described him as a "sketchy" man around 30 years old. His identity has been kept secret, and it remained unclear Wednesday how tightly M.B.'s identity would be shielded during his testimony.
When the man takes the stand, it could mark the highest-profile testimony in the case, which has drawn national attention as an example of the societal challenges facing young gays and lesbians.
In earlier testimony, former Rutgers student Molly Wei said Ravi showed her a live web stream of Clementi, 18, kissing a man in the dorm room the young men shared.
Wei was initially charged too, but she entered a pretrial intervention program last year that can keep her record clean. One condition of the program is truthful testimony in Ravi's criminal case.
Wei said she invited Ravi, whom she had known since middle school, to her dorm room for a snack a few minutes after 9 p.m. on Sept. 19, 2010. When Ravi tried to go back, she said, Clementi told him that he wanted the cramped dorm room to himself for a few hours. So Ravi returned.
Within a few minutes, she said, he used her computer to view live images from his webcam. It was then, she said, that she saw about two seconds of Clementi and an older man kissing.
Even though she said they initially agreed not to talk about what they had seen, she asked Ravi to tell a friend about it during an online chat that began at 9:20 p.m. And within minutes, word got around the dorm.
She said she agreed to turn the webcam back on at the request of a woman who was among a group dropped by her room.
"It was the exact same image, except that they had taken their tops off," she said. "As soon as they saw it, I turned it off."
One student who testified got a chuckle from jurors when she described M.B. as "not obscenely old," though another said his age was considered "scandalous."
She said she called Rutgers police a few days later after learning about a Twitter message Ravi posted on Sept. 21, when Clementi requested privacy in the room again.
"Anyone with iChat," he posted, "I dare you to videochat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again."