NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) –– The prosecution tried to paint Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student charged with using a webcam to spy on his roommate’s intimate encounter with another man, as someone who deliberately tried invade Tyler Clementi’s privacy during a trial on Friday.
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Ravi, 19, is facing 15 criminal counts including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation in connection with the death of the 18-year-old Clementi, who committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in 2010 days after Ravi allegedly spied on him.
Clementi’s family, including his brother, sat in the front of the packed courtroom. In her opening statements Friday morning, Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure said Ravi’s invasion of privacy of his roommate was deliberate and criminal.
“The defendant’s actions were very purposeful, intentional and planned in this case and they were planned to expose Tyler Clementi’s sexual orientation and they were planned to expose Tyler Clementi’s private, sexual activity,” McClure told the jury. “I would suggest to you that beyond that, they were mean-spirited, they were malicious and they were criminal.”
Rutgers student Cassandra Cicco told jurors she was one of a half-dozen students, including Ravi, who watched Clementi and the other man from another room.
Cicco testified Friday that she saw the webcast of the intimate encounter. She said one of the men had his shirt off, but nothing other than the men “making out” was actually shown.
McClure said Ravi rigged his computer to capture Clementi in his gay encounter.
“He went into that automatic accept feature in the video iChat and he and his friend from across the hall viewed live images of Tyler Clementi and his male guest engaging in sexual activity in that room,” McClure said.
The defense says images of Clementi and the other man identified in court papers as ‘MB’ were never broadcast. ‘MB’ is scheduled to testify next week.
McClure told the jury that Ravi had deprived Clementi of his privacy and dignity.
“It was like opening the blinds to the window of that room. He opened the blinds, he viewed what was going on through those blinds, he left the blinds opened and he invited and encouraged other people to look through those blinds,” McClure told the jury.
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But Ravi’s defense attorney, Steven Altman, told jurors that while his client may have acted poorly, he did nothing criminal.
“I can’t stand here and tell you that Dharun didn’t act like a boy or at times, childish and immature. You’re 18, I can’t say that,” Altman said. “But you have to decide if what he did was deliberate, was purposeful, was criminal.”
Altman said his evidence will show that Ravi did not break any laws and that he did not hate his roommate as some have suggested.
“Dharun never intimated anybody,” Altman said. “He never committed a crime, he never committed a hateful crime. You’re going to see in the evidence that he’s not homophobic, he’s not anti-gay. As I said, he never recorded his roommate.”
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He also told the jury that his client only watched a few seconds of the webcam video of Clementi hugging another man.
“He never transmitted any images,” Altman said. “He never harassed his roommate, he never ridiculed his roommate, he never said anything bad about his roommate.”
But McClure said Ravi tweeted people on a public account and told them he had a webcam pointed at Clementi and the other man having an intimate encounter in their dorm room and said Ravi used the webcam not once, but twice to spy on his roommate.
Prosecutors said Ravi then tried to cover up what he allegedly did, asking friends to lie and deleting tweets and cell phone texts.
Molly Wei, another former Rutgers student, was also initially charged in the case but accepted a deal last year to avoid jail time and potentially a criminal record. She had to enter a pre-trial intervention program and agree to cooperate in the case against Ravi, among other conditions.
Ravi turned down a plea deal that would have also resulted in no time behind bars. His lawyers say it’s because he’s not guilty of any crimes. If found guilty, Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison.
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