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Jury begins deliberations in webcam spying trial of Rutgers’ student

Wednesday, March 14, 2012
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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A jury on Wednesday concluded their first day of deliberations on whether Dharun Ravi committed a hate crime when he used a webcam to spy on his college roommate’s intimate encounter with another man, actions that allegedly contributed to the suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi.

Ravi is charged with 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy, witness tampering and bias intimidation, which is a hate crime.

Dharun Ravi

Clementi, 18, jumped to his death from the George Washington bridge on Sept. 22, 2010 after Ravi allegedly placed a camera in their dorm room three days earlier and streamed images onto the internet of Clementi’s intimate same-sex encounter, and used Twitter to encourage fellow students to watch.

Ravi, now 20, was also accused of setting up his webcam to try to capture Tyler in a second liaison two days later.

In closing arguments Tuesday, First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure encouraged jurors to consider Ravi’s actions in which he allegedly spied on Clement, and told multiple friends via twitter, instant messages and text messages what he had seen, reported the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

“You heard about actions and you heard about words,” McClure said in a hour-long statement, slowly pacing back and forth in front of the jury box. “He told high school friends before he even went off to Rutgers University, he told people in the dorm that he suspected that his roommate was gay.”

“That information and that mindset was what drove his escalating and deliberative acts,” she said.

She later added, “It wasn’t what he wanted his college experience to be. He didn’t want to have a gay roommate. He didn’t like that he had a gay roommate.”

Evidence from Clementi’s computer showed that he had viewed Ravi’s Twitter page 38 times in the two days before he killed himself, and saved screenshots of tweets that were about him. One of the tweets Ravi sent told his twitter followers he had seen his roommate “making out with a dude.”

“Three weeks into his college experience and he finds out that his sexual orientation has been broadcast to the defendant’s Twitter followers. He finds out that his private sexual activity has been exposed,” McClure told jurors. “What do you think he’s thinking? … You don’t think he was intimidated by learning that information?”

Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

Although he has lived nearly his entire life with his family in the United States, Ravi is not a U.S. citizen and could be deported back to India, where he was born.

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