The roommate of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death is on trial, 17 months after Clementi's suicide.
Dharun Ravi, of Plainsboro, New Jersey is charged with 15 counts of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation arising from the September 2010 suicide. He has not been charged with causing the death of Clement but the bias intimidation charges are considered hate crimes and could net Mr. Ravi up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Ravi set up a webcam in the room he shared with Tyler Clementi, 18 at Rutgers University to capture Clementi's romantic encounters with other young men. Read: N.J. Teen Tyler Clementi Jumps to Death After Secret Taping.
When others saw the video and learned of Clementi's sexual orientation the 18 year-old from Ridgewood, NJ is said to have been distraught enough to kill himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, but not before leaving a suicide note in the form of a Facebook post
On Friday, it was learned from a staffer at the university who handled room assignments that Clementi requested a room change that wasn't seen by anyone at the university until after the fact.
Ravi's defense team is portraying their client as a prankster, not a hater while the prosecutors in Middlesex County, NJ are convinced that there was malicious intent when the webcam was set up and began recording.
The Wall Street Journal reported on defense counsel Steven Altman's opening statement: "He’s not hateful. He’s not a bigot. At 18, he didn’t have enough experience in life to know about being gay or homosexuality. When we get done here, you are going to see he might be stupid at times, he was an 18-year-old boy, but he is certainly not a criminal.”
Witnesses said last week that Ravi's reason for installing the camera in the first place was to guard against theft of his personal belongings because Clementi's visitor was unknown to him, according to the Los Angeles Times. "He was older, maybe not a Rutgers student," Alvin Artha told the court.
Artha was living in the same dorm as Ravi and Clementi and chose to leave the dorm room when asked to watch the video with Ravi and Molly Wei.
Ms. Wei began her testimony yesterday and continues her testimony today. She told the court that she was arrested along with Ravi but was able to strike a deal with prosecutors to keep her from being charged with the same crimes as her fellow Rutgers student.
NBC News is streaming live video from the courtroom. Ms. Wei testified about how two days after she watched video with Ravi, she learned about his Twitter invitation to his followers, inviting them to watch along with him.
Wei told the court Monday:"First of all, it was shocking. It felt wrong. We didn't expect to see that. And now that what we did, it was like we shouldn't have seen it." Nevertheless, after initially agreeing with Ravi not to discuss what they saw, they ultimately began to tell people and show them pieces of the video.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
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