Rutgers spycam case: why it's not open and shut
Dharun Ravi faces charges of, among other counts, invasion of privacy and witness and evidence tampering. The most serious charge – bias intimidation – could draw a 10-year sentence.
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Ravi turned down a plea bargain in December 2011 that would have meant no time in prison, but 600 hours of community service and counseling. The state also assured Ravi, an Indian citizen, that it would recommend he not be deported. So why turn down the deal and embrace an uncertain outcome in court?Skip to next paragraph
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Another possibility is that Ravi and his attorneys are confident the charges against him are weak and can be defeated. Clues suggesting this appear in a minute-by-minute timeline documented in court papers that describe a situation in which Ravi was asked to leave his dorm room by Clementi, who was eager to have a tryst with an unknown individual known only as "M.B."
Saying he feared his iPad might be taken, Ravi connected to the webcam on his laptop from a friend's dorm room down the hall – and observed Clementi and another man kissing for about two seconds, before switching it off. It was the only time Ravi viewed Clementi this way, defense lawyers for Ravi wrote in a brief.
Clementi soon discovered he'd been spied on when he read a tweet written by Ravi, mocking the incident. But he later wrote to a friend that it was "s000 funny."
"It was still wrong to do," he continued, "butt I remembered [the] green light [on the camera] turning on and as I went to turn the cam around it turned off. But it's not like he left the cam on or recorded or anything. he just like took a five sec peep lol."
Such electronic records may make it difficult for prosecutors to convince jurors that Clementi felt intimidated or bullied by Ravi's actions, says Mr. Adams.
Ravi also later joked about the incident to friends in a tweet, and invited them to view his roommate, who had again invited M.B. to the dorm room. Ravi's attorneys contend that he disconnected the laptop webcam to make sure no one would look in on his roommate. And Clementi – who was aware of the earlier incident and apparently feared being spied on again – told friends that he cut power to Ravi's computer.
But other electronic files created shortly after Clementi told his parents he was gay a few weeks before he went to college, which he named "Why is everything so painful" and "sorry," have been ruled inadmissible by Judge Berman. A hand-written note found in Clementi's backpack was also ruled inadmissible.
A key point the defense will likely highlight is Ravi's concern after he learned Clementi had requested a new roommate.
"I've known you were gay and I have no problem with it. In fact one of my closest friends is gay and he and I have a very open relationship," Ravi texted Clementi. "I just suspected you were shy about it which is why I never broached the topic. I don't want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding, its adding to my guilt. You have the right to move if you wish but I don't want you to feel pressured to without fully understanding the situation."
But that last message may never have been seen. It was sent at 8:56 p.m. – 14 minutes after Clementi's last text message.