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Ex-Rutgers student accused in webcam spying trial not testifying

Faces 15 counts after roommate committed suicide

- Associated Press - Monday, March 12, 2012

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Jurors in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man will not hear directly from the defendant.

Dharun Ravi's defense lawyer rested his case Monday without calling Mr. Ravi to testify.

The jury could begin deliberating Tuesday or Wednesday after lawyers give their summations and the judge gives instructions.

Mr. Ravi's lawyer, Steven Altman, said Monday that although he didn't think there was anything to gain from having his client testify, the jury might hear from him indirectly in closing arguments.

Mr. Altman said he may play for them a video of a nearly hourlong statement Mr. Ravi made for an investigator days before he was charged. In it, Mr. Ravi acknowledged using his webcam and seeing what was happening in his dorm room, but he said he did not intend to do any harm.

The trial captured in detail the actions of Mr. Ravi and his randomly assigned freshman roommate, Tyler Clementi, over a few days in September 2010, beginning when Mr. Clementi asked for privacy so he could have a guest over and continuing past when he committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

Mr. Ravi is not charged with his death. He faces 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. Seven of the charges are related to accusations that he tried to cover his tracks by changing Twitter messages, deleting text messages and telling another witness what she should say.

Testimony stretched over 12 days and included about 30 witnesses, including several college students, along with school officials and investigators. Jurors also heard from the other man in the streamed video; he was identified only by the initials M.B.

Without a chance to hear testimony from Mr. Ravi, who told Judge Glenn Berman that it was his own decision not to get on the witness stand, jurors may give more consideration to the one instance they did get to hear his voice. It came in a video of an interview he gave police Sept. 23, 2010.

Mr. Ravi looked composed for an 18-year-old wearing shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops when he was brought into a police station. Word had spread that Mr. Ravi used his webcam to view Mr. Clementi just days before Clementi committed suicide.

As he was questioned, Mr. Ravi looked directly at the investigator who grilled him and accused him repeatedly of lying. He talked quickly but his voice didn't trail off.

Throughout the trial, Mr. Ravi sat about 20 feet from jurors wearing a suit, his formerly unkempt hair trimmed neatly. Sometimes, he fiddled with his tie. Sometimes, he cracked a smile. Sometimes, he whispered to his lawyers.

To convict him on the most serious charge - bias intimidation - prosecutors will need to convince the jury that he acted out of animus against gays. He faces up to 10 years of prison if he's convicted of bias intimidation, which is considered a hate crime in New Jersey. Most people convicted of the other charges he faces don't get jail time.

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