Rutgers spycam case heads to jury, hinges on 'bias intimidation'
The spycam case drew national attention because of the intersection of alleged discrimination against gays and the intrusion of social media. Dharun Ravi faces 15 criminal charges.
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Defense attorney Steven Altman said that Ravi's use of the webcam was motivated by concern about his own possessions, such as an iPad tablet computer, and about what was going on his room when Clementi asked to use the space privately with a friend.
Mr. Altman emphasized that Ravi never recorded provocative video or posted it online, and that when Ravi and a friend saw (via the webcam) intimate behavior, they turned off the video stream within seconds.
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Altman also said the prosecution had failed to turn up witnesses saying, for instance, that Ravi had made antigay remarks.
McClure said Ravi made a point of spreading word, via Twitter and in-person conversation, about his roommate's sexual orientation and encounters with a male friend.
The prosecutor sought to cast doubt on a central claim made by Ravi in the taped police interview: that he had shut down his computer prior to second time Clementi asked for privacy in the room. Citing computer evidence and testimony from Ravi's friends on campus, McClure suggested that Ravi had every intent of allowing others to connect to the webcam's video feed to watch Clementi with his friend, identified in the trial as "M.B." A Twitter post by Ravi dared friends to watch the webcam at that time.
It was Clementi, McClure said, who shut down Ravi's computer (rendering the webcam unviewable) during that visit from M.B., and then turned it on again before Clementi returned to the room.
Ravi himself was practicing with his Ultimate Frisbee team that night while Clementi met with M.B.
Later, Ravi deleted two Twitter messages important to the case. The prosecution says those and other actions by Ravi sought to interfere with police investigation of Clementi's death. The jury could find Ravi guilty of those offenses even if he is cleared of bias intimidation.
In one Twitter message, after Clementi's first meeting with M.B., Ravi said "I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."
The prosecution showed evidence that Clementi monitored Ravi's Twitter account, seeing that message and the one in which Ravi dared friends to watch his webcam feed on the night of Clementi's second meeting with M.B.
Before his suicide, Clementi applied to the university for a change of dorm rooms, and expressed concern about Ravi's behavior to a resident adviser.
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