NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ (CBSNewYork/AP) – Testimony resumes Monday in the trial of the former Rutgers student accused of spying on his roommate, who later committed suicide.
Days later, Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.
The trial opened Friday with questions about whether the defendant had a problem with gay people.
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.
The prosecution painted Ravi as someone who deliberately tried invade Clementi’s privacy and said his actions were intended to victimize his roommate.
“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,” prosecutor Julia McClure told the jury.
But 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.”
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.
Cassandra Cicco, another fellow student, told jurors that she was one of a half-dozen students who watched the scene from another room.
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.
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 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.
Ravi turned down a plea deal that would have resulted in no time behind bars. His lawyers say it’s because he’s not guilty of any crimes.
If convicted, Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison.
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