Arts & Entertainment
Defendant won't testify in US webcam spying trial
By GEOFF MULVIHILL
Originally printed 3/15/2012 (Issue 2011 - Between The Lines News)
NEW BRUNWSICK, New Jersey (AP) -
Jurors in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another will not hear directly from the defendant.
Indian-born Dharun Ravi's defense lawyer rested his case Monday without calling Ravi to testify.
The jury could begin deliberating on Tuesday after lawyers give their summations.
The trial captured in detail the actions of Ravi and his randomly-assigned freshman roommate, Tyler Clementi, over a few days in September 2010, beginning when Clementi asked for privacy so he could have a guest over and continuing past when he committed suicide by jumping off the bridge that links New York City with New Jersey.
The suicide made Clementi a national symbol of the difficulties young gays can face.
Ravi is not charged with his death. He faces 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. Seven of the charges are related to allegations that he tried to cover his tracks by changing a Twitter messages, deleting text messages and telling another witness what she should say.
Testimony stretched over 12 days and included about 30 witnesses, including several college students, along with school officials and investigators. Jurors also heard from the other man in the streamed video; he was identified only by the initials M.B.
Without a chance to hear testimony from Ravi, who told Judge Glenn Berman that it was his own decision not to testify, jurors may give more consideration to the one instance they did get to hear his voice. It came in a video of an interview he gave police on Sept. 23, 2010.
Ravi looked composed for an 18-year-old wearing shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops when he was brought into a police station.
Word had spread that Ravi used his webcam to view Clementi in a private moment with another man, just days before Clementi committed suicide.
As he was questioned, Ravi looked directly at the investigator who grilled him and accused him repeatedly of lying. He talked quickly but his voice didn't trail off.
Throughout the trial, Ravi sat about 20 feet (six meters) from jurors wearing a suit, his formerly unkempt hair trimmed neatly. Sometimes, he fiddled with his tie. Sometimes he cracked a smile. Sometimes, he whispered to his lawyers.
Between his recorded words and those of others, a portrait of him has been painted for jurors.
Ravi came to New Jersey with his family as a young child. He and his family live in the upscale central New Jersey community of Plainsboro.
The son of a computer software firm executive, he has designed some software on his own.
The younger Ravi had a custom-made computer that functioned on both Microsoft and Apple Macintosh operating systems. That technical accomplishment - while not unheard of - impressed the detective assigned to examine the machine.
He was gregarious and good enough at calculus that other students came to him for help.
In high school, he ran track and played ultimate Frisbee, then joined the disc team when he got to Rutgers. He was proud when he bought new cleats for the sports, describing them in a text message to a friend as "purple and flashy."
At Rutgers, he planned to major in economics. The university assigned him and Clementi to be roommates at random. They didn't meet before they moved in at the end of August.
When he met with police, he was asked to explain a Twitter post in which he said: "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 pm and 12."
On the video, he said he meant that sarcastically. "When I'm uncomfortable about something," Ravi explained during the interrogation, "I joke about it."
To convict him on the most serious charge - bias intimidation - prosecutors will need to convince the jury that he acted out of animus against gays. He faces up to 10 years of prison if he's convicted of bias intimidation, which is considered a hate crime in New Jersey. Most people convicted of the other charges he faces don't get jail time.
Throughout the trial, defense lawyers have worked hard to show that he didn't.
As prosecutors called college students to testify, defense lawyers asked them all a variation of the same question: Did he ever say anything bad about gays? In each case, the answer was "no."
But there was a bit more to it than that. Some students said Ravi told them he was "uncomfortable" having a gay roommate.
The defense began presenting its side of the case on Friday by calling seven men to testify. All of them are friends - and most current or former business associates - of Ravi's father.
Defense lawyer Philip Nettl asked each of them if Ravi ever said anything derogatory about gay individuals or gays in general.
In each case, the men said no.
Then, Prosecutor Julia McClure began questioning them.
All said they had never seen his Twitter posts, and exchanged texts or instant messages with him. And each of them said homosexuality was never discussed in their conversations.
"Why would that come up?" asked one of the men, Anil Kappa, a business partner of Ravi's father.
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