Prosecution rests in Rutgers webcam spying trial

Dharun Ravi's lawyers are expected to present an investigator and several character witnesses starting Friday.

John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger/AP
Dharun Ravi shares a laugh with his attorneys during a break in his trial at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick, N.J. on Wednesday, March 7.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday in the trial of a former RutgersUniversity student, setting the stage for lawyers to begin their defense of the young man accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man.

Dharun Ravi's lawyers are expected to present an investigator and several character witnesses starting Friday. His roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in New York City on Sept. 22, 2010, days after his dormitory room liaison.

Ravi, now 20, is charged with 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and several crimes related to trying to cover up his actions.

He faces up to 10 years in prison if he's convicted of the most serious offense, bias intimidation. He also could be deported to India, where he was born and remains a citizen, if he's convicted on any counts.

Ravi's lawyers said their first witness will likely be Frank DiNinno, an investigator who worked on the case. On cross-examination of other witnesses, defense lawyers raised the idea that he was too friendly with the student witnesses in the case. A Rutgers University police detective could also be called.

Defense lawyers said he'll be followed by several students and others, some of whom will serve as character witnesses.

They'll also have to decide whether Ravi will take the stand. If he testifies, it won't be until at least Monday.

Ravi isn't charged with Clementi's death, though in many ways the suicide lies at the heart of the case.

The prosecution called nearly two dozen witnesses in 10 days of testimony. The majority of them were college students who testified about seeing the web stream or being told about it. The other man who was seen in the video — identified only by the initials M.B. — also testified.

There was brief testimony Thursday focusing on the chain of custody of evidence, including computers and cellphones.

Also on Thursday, Judge Glenn Berman said he wouldn't dismiss any of the charges against Ravi. In a routine motion at this point in a trial, defense lawyers asked that several charges be tossed, saying prosecutors hadn't presented evidence to support them.

On Wednesday, prosecutors put on the witness stand a detective who interviewed Ravi on Sept. 23, 2010 — after Clementi was believed dead but before Ravi was charged. Jurors saw the nearly hourlong video of the interrogation.

The investigator, Michael Daniewicz, repeatedly accused Ravi of lying about details. And Ravi, for his part, agreed that he had violated his roommate's privacy by going to a friend's room and using her computer to view images from his own webcam, which he had set up to accept webchat requests automatically.

He said he did not see anything graphic and turned the stream off as soon as he realized what was going on.

"I didn't realize it was something so private," he said.

He said he sent a tweet about what he saw, later, "daring" people to videochat with him two days later during the hours when Clementi had requested the room again.

But he said that he didn't mean it.

"I said that sarcastically, first of all," he said, adding that he didn't want people to watch the feed. Jurors had heard in earlier testimony, though, that Clementi had visited Ravi's Twitter page 38 times in the two days before he killed himself and saved a screenshot of that tweet.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.