Defense says defendant Dharun Ravi acted like a teenager, not a criminal
The prosecution contends Ravi was bothered by his roommate's sexuality
Ravi, 20, is charged with 15 counts after his roommate's suicide
Jury begins deliberations Wednesday in the trial of a former Rutgers student accused of spying on and intimidating his gay roommate, who later killed himself by jumping off New York’s George Washington Bridge.
In his closing arguments Tuesday, Dharun Ravi’s attorney said the defendant had acted like a teenager, not a criminal.
“He hasn’t lived long enough to have any experience with homosexuality or gays. He doesn’t know anything about it. He just graduated high school,” attorney Steven Altman said.
Ravi, 20, is on trial on a 15-count indictment for allegedly spying on and intimidating his roommate, Tyler Clementi.
The case caught national attention in 2010 after Clementi killed himself. His death stirred discussion about bullying, with President Barack Obama releasing a videotaped message less than a month later condemning such treatment.
Meanwhile, prosecutors, in their closing argument, argued that Ravi’s actions were indeed motivated by his dislike for gay people.
“He was bothered by Tyler Clementi’s sexual orientation,” Julie McClure said bluntly.
Ravi and fellow student Molly Wei – who admitted joining Ravi to watch a surreptitious webcam encounter involving Clementi and another man in September 2010 – were charged in the wake of Clementi’s death.
Facing two counts of invasion of privacy, Wei reached a plea deal in May 2011 that required her to testify against her friend and former high school classmate, as well as to complete a three-year program on cyberbullying and do 300 hours of community service.
Ravi turned down a plea deal offered by Middlesex County prosecutors that would have let him avoid jail time in exchange for undergoing counseling, doing 600 hours of community service and disposing 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. He did not testify on his own behalf.
If convicted on all counts after the more than two-week trial, Ravi could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
During the prosecution’s phase of the trial, the man that Clementi was intimate with told jurors that he had noticed a web camera aimed at Clementi’s bed.
The 32-year-old man, identified only as M.B., testified that he first met Clementi on an Internet social networking site for gay men and that they eventually met in the student’s dorm room three times. The two conversed online, exchanged text messages and later had sex.
Wei testified that she watched a sexual liaison involving M.B. and Clementi with Ravi, who had secretly set up the webcam in his and Clementi’s room.
Ravi’s lawyer, Altman, has argued that his client had switched on the webcam to monitor his personal items because he did not trust his roommate’s visitor, not necessarily because Clementi was gay.
In Twitter messages from that day, Ravi wrote that he’d gone into a friend’s room, “turned on my webcam” and saw his roommate “making out with a dude.”
On September 22, 2010, Clementi took a train to New York and posted a mobile status update on his Facebook page that read, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry,” before killing himself.
InSession’s Jim Kyle contributed to this report.