Summations begin in Rutgers webcam spying trial

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate’s intimate encounter with another man said Tuesday that his client is a kid, not a criminal, his lawyer said Tuesday in closing arguments.

Defense attorney Steven Altman said Dharun Ravi was surprised to turn on his webcam and see his roommate in an intimate situation with another man. He emphasized that there was no recording, no broadcast and no YouTube video of the encounter.

And he said that Ravi was not acting out of hatred of his roommate or gays in general.

“If there’s hate in Dharun’s heart, if there’s ugliness in Dharun’s heart,” Altman, fighting a cold and speaking with an uncharacteristically soft voice, asked jurors, “Where’s there some information and some evidence to support it?”

Ravi faces 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. His roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in September 2010, days after the alleged spying.

Prosecutors are expected to make their closing arguments later in the day. Jurors are expected to start deliberating by Wednesday.

They heard about 30 witnesses over 12 days of testimony in the trial. They did not hear testimony from Ravi himself, though they did see video of a statement he gave to police.

There’s no dispute that Ravi saw a brief snippet of video streamed live from his webcam to the laptop of a friend in her dorm room on Sept. 19, 2010.

The friend, Molly Wei, said Clementi and his guest — identified in the trial only by the initials M.B. — were fully clothed and kissing at the time.

Ravi posted a Twitter message that night that concluded: “I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

Later, Wei showed some other students. They said the men had removed their shirts, and that the webstream was turned off after mere seconds. Wei was initially charged, but later entered a pretrial intervention program that could allow her to avoid jail time and a criminal record if she complies with a list of conditions.

Two days after the first incident, Clementi asked for the room alone again.

This time, Ravi tweeted: “Yes, it’s happening again” and “dared” followers to connect with his computer to video chat. There was testimony that he told one friend that there was going to be a “viewing party” at Rutgers.

But there was no webcast. Ravi’s lawyers say it’s because he disabled his computer before Clementi had M.B. over. And witnesses placed Ravi at Ultimate Frisbee practice for most of the time he was asked to stay away from his room.

In his summation, Altman noted that none of Ravi’s roughly 150 Twitter followers seemed to take action after seeing his tweets. “Not one attempt to see anything, what does it tell you? Nobody cares and nobody’s taking it very seriously.”

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