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Key witness may testify in Rutgers cyberbullying trial

From Jim Kyle, InSession
updated 12:24 PM EST, Wed February 29, 2012
The person reportedly seen in an intimate encounter with Tyler Clementi may be called to testify.
The person reportedly seen in an intimate encounter with Tyler Clementi may be called to testify.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A key witness is expected to testify Thursday
  • Ravi faces a 15-count indictment that includes hate crime charges
  • He is accused of streaming footage of his roommate having sex with another man
  • Roommate Tyler Clementi killed himself, jumping from the George Washington Bridge

New Brunswick, New Jersey (CNN) -- The man with whom Tyler Clementi had a sexual encounter is soon expected to take the stand in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of spying on Clementi.

Wednesday marked the fourth day of Dharun Ravi's trial. Prosecutors say he and another student placed a camera in Clementi's dorm room without his knowledge to allegedly spy on his encounter with the man.

Prosecutors have withheld the man's name, listing him only as "M.B.," to protect his identity. He is expected to testify Thursday.

Just days after the webcam incident in 2010, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey and Manhattan.

Ravi, 20, now faces a 15-count indictment in Clementi's death that includes hate crime charges, charges of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, tampering with physical evidence, witness tampering and hindering apprehension or prosecution.

If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Last year, he turned down a plea deal that would have allowed him to avoid jail time.

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The deal offered by Middlesex County prosecutors would have required the former student to undergo 600 hours of community service, counseling and to dispose of any information that could identify the man who appeared in the web video with Clementi.

Prosecutors also offered to help Ravi avoid deportation, though they said they could not guarantee it. Ravi is a citizen of India who had been studying on a visa at the New Jersey university.

On Tuesday, the second student charged in the case took the stand again, saying she felt "sad" and "overwhelmed" in the wake of the incident.

Molly Wei, 19, reached a plea deal that requires her to testify against Ravi.

"Police officers told me that they believe Tyler is missing and that he possibly committed suicide and I was feeling very -- I was sad, overwhelmed. I felt very bad if anything had happened," Wei told jurors during her second day of testimony.

Prosecutor: "These acts were purposeful"

If convicted, Dharun Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison.
If convicted, Dharun Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison.

Should Wei complete a three-year program on cyberbullying, as well as 300 hours of community service without any additional legal troubles, charges against her for allegedly watching the video will be dropped, according to prosecutors.

She also testified about when she learned of messages Ravi allegedly sent about the stream.

"I was very surprised because my friends brought it up, and I had no idea how they knew, but they said that Dharun had told them. ... They told me about these Twitter, tweets, that they received on Tuesday about him trying to have a viewing party," said Wei.

Less than a month after Clementi's suicide, President Barack Obama released a videotaped message condemning bullying.

In November, Clementi's family consented to the use of his name on federal anti-harassment legislation called the "Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act."

The proposed law would require schools that receive federal student aid "to create policies prohibiting the harassment of any student," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey.

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