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The man known only as M.B. was called to the witness stand Friday morning. Tall with a medium build and dark hair, M.B. was clean-cut and clean-shaven when he walked into the courtroom through a side door.
Ravi is charged with invasion of privacy and bias intimidation for allegedly using a webcam to spy on his roommate, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi and M.B.
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The so-called mystery man has been considered one of the most highly anticipated witnesses in the trial. His identity is being kept a secret from the public. Courtroom cameras are only allowed to show his hands and his testimony will not be broadcast.
Only jurors have been given M.B.’s full name to make sure they did not know him. Outside the courtoom, M.B.’s lawyer Richard Pompelio, said M.B. found out about Clementi’s death after hearing it on the radio.
“He’s a fine young man who came here under horrible circumstances to tell the truth,” Pompelio said.
Prosecutors say Clementi killed himself in September 2010 just days after he found out about the webcam.
M.B. told jurors that he met Clementi in late August of 2010, when he was 30-years-old, on a social networking site for gay men. He said they soon began to chat on AOL instant messenger and met in person for the first time on Sept. 16 at Clementi’s dorm at Rutgers.
He says they arranged to meet again a few days later on Sept. 19, the day the alleged spying took place.
M.B. said he went to the dorm around 10:30 p.m. that night. He said Ravi, who he described and pointed out in the courtroom, was in the room when he arrived.
He said Ravi left, but quickly returned. He said Ravi walked over to his desk, shuffled around a bit and then left again.
M.B. said he stayed with Clementi for about two hours that night and said they engaged in sexual activity. Those who testified they watched the live stream that night said they only saw a few seconds of the two kissing with their shirts off.
Nervous and visibly shaken, M.B. then told jurors that at some point he noticed Ravi’s webcam.
“I had just glanced over my shoulder and I noticed there was a webcam that was faced toward the direction of the bed,” he said. “Just being in a compromising position and seeing a camera lens – it just stuck out to me.”
“It was strange. Being in a compromising position and seeing a camera looking at me. If you were sitting at the computer, a camera wouldn’t be facing that direction, it would be facing a person at the computer,” M.B. added.
When he left Clementi’s room around midnight, he said there were about five students looking at him in a way he described as “unsettling.”
“Had they been in the street or somewhere other than this building I would have asked them why they were looking at me,” he said.
He said he came back to the dorm a few days later on Sept. 21 sometime between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m., the same night prosecutors say Ravi posted on Twitter ”I dare you to videochat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it’s happening again.”
M.B. said he and Clementi had sex again and while he was in the room, he said he could hear people laughing and joking outside in a courtyard, but was not allowed to say what exactly he heard.
Under cross-examination, M.B. said he and Clementi had discussed going to a hotel to be intimate in order to avoid going back to the dorm and running into Ravi.
“If someone hid a camera in place you expected to be private and showed it to others, how would you feel?” said Pompelio.
Defense attorney Steven Altman repeatedly asked if the two ever met anywhere else besides the dorm, like for coffee or a movie.
“I preferred just to wait until we could have the privacy of a room, wherever that room might be,” he said, adding that his home was often not an option.
After the third time he met Clementi, M.B. said he wanted to see the 18-year-old again, but wasn’t sure about returning to the dorm.
“As far as whether I was going to return to that building to see him, I felt a little uneasy about it,” he said.
Earlier in the trial, three of Ravi’s old classmates testified about Ravi’s suspicions that his roommate was gay and that he set up the webcam in their room to catch him.
After Clementi complained to school officials about Ravi, Rutgers officer Krzysztof Kowalczyk dropped by his room to check on the 18-year-old, but says only Ravi was there.
“He had stated that an individual had stayed in the dorm room with Tyler a couple days prior,” Kowalczyk said Ravi had told him.
Jennifer Hellstern, an assistant director of residential life, also testified Thursday. She read a Twitter message for Ravi that was posted a few hours after Kowalczyk left his room.
“Don’t you dare videochat me,” it said.
Another student, Lokesh Ojha, testified Wednesday he went online to see the video from Ravi’s webcam on Sept. 21.
“Curiosity to see if he was actually going to do it,” he said. “To see if Dharun was actually going to stream it.”
He then testified the live stream never worked.
“I said: ‘Yo, it didn’t work.’ He said: ‘Yeah, I’ve been getting that from a lot of people. You’ve got to brush it off,’” Ojha said.
Prosecutors say Clementi killed himself a day after talking with resident assistant Raahi Grover, who testified that Clementi had asked for a room change after finding out about the webcam.
“Tyler is quite upset and feels uncomfortable,” Grover read from an incident report he had written. “Tyler prefers some sort of roommate switch ASAP and prefers some sort of punishment for Dharun Ravi.”
But Ravi’s attorneys have argued he didn’t care about Clementi’s sexual orientation and set up the webcam because he was afraid his belongings were going to be stolen.
A day after speaking with Grover, Clementi posted to Facebook: “Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry,” according to court documents.
Minutes after Clementi’s message was posted to Facebook, Ravi sent him a text message that said the whole incident with the webcam was “a petty misunderstanding.”
Ravi faces 15 criminal charges and could be sentenced for up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
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