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Prosecution rests; Defense calls character witnesses in Rutgers webcam spying trial

Sunday, March 11, 2012
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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Defense attorneys for Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate’s intimate encounter with another man, called seven character witnesses who testified Friday that they never heard Ravi say anything derogatory about gays or homosexuality in general.

New Jersey Star-Ledger

Dharun Ravi

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday in the trial against Ravi, charged with 15 criminal counts — including a charge of the hate crime of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and hindering apprehension — for his alleged actions that led to suicide of Tyler Clementi.

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

Prosecutors said Ravi targeted Clementi because he was being gay, then sought to humiliate him by texting and tweeting friends about the encounters.

The state presented more than 20 witnesses over 10 days of testimony since the trial began on Feb. 24, including college students, law enforcement officers, Rutgers residence life officials and computer experts, reported the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Much of the evidence has come from digital records of tweets, text messages and instant message chats involving Ravi, Clementi, and other students.

While many of the students have testified that Ravi never said anything derogatory or malicious about his roommate, or about gay people, one student testified that Ravi “appeared uncomfortable” with having a gay roommate, and another read a text message that Ravi had sent saying he was “creeped out” after seeing Clementi and his guest kissing, and his computer would “keep the gays away.”

The seven character witnesses who testified Friday on Ravi’s behalf — all married and with children of their own — are work friends or associates of Ravi’s father who had seen Ravi interact with their children, and had known him for several years, according to the Star-Ledger.

But on cross-examination all acknowledged having little personal contact with Ravi outside holiday gatherings and other social functions, and all conceded they never talked to Ravi about homosexuality.

If convicted on the top bias charges, Ravi could face up to 10 years in prison.

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