- Associated Press - Monday, March 5, 2012

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate’s intimate encounter with another man told his friends he was hosting a “viewing party” with beer and rum to watch the dorm-room liaison, a high school friend testified Monday.

The revelation came in testimony from Michelle Huang, a Cornell University student who said defendant Dharun Ravi told her about it in a text message on Sept. 21, 2010.

Mr. Ravi, 20, is on trial for 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and several charges accusing him of trying to cover his tracks. Bias intimidation is a hate crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The roommate, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010. Since then, the case has sparked a national conversation about the difficulties faced by young gays.

Prosecutors are trying to prove that Mr. Ravi intentionally tried to humiliate Clementi. Ms. Huang testified that Mr. Ravi urged her to video-chat him so she could see the webcam footage.

Jane and Joe Clementi, Tyler Clementi's parents, wait for the start of Dharun Ravi's trial at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick, N.J., on Friday, March 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Home News Tribune, Mark R. Sullivan, Pool)
Jane and Joe Clementi, Tyler Clementi’s parents, wait for the start of ... more >

“Do it for real,” Mr. Ravi wrote in a text that was shown to jurors. “I have it pointed at his bed.”

People were planning a “viewing party with a bottle of Bacardi and beer” to watch the Web stream that night, Ms. Huang said. It was the first mention of a planned party in the trial, which started its seventh day of testimony on Monday.

Ms. Huang later testified that after Clementi had killed himself, Mr. Ravi texted her that the talk of a viewing party was a joke.

Witnesses have said the webcam wasn’t working that night.

Mr. Ravi isn’t charged in Clementi’s death, and the judge has been cautious about how the suicide would come into the trial.

Prosecutors are precluded from linking the spying allegations to the suicide. Defense lawyers cannot make the case that Clementi killed himself for other reasons.

When prospective jurors were brought into the courtroom last month for the first time, the judge told them that it was the case involving Clementi and that Clementi had killed himself.

The issue came up Monday when Ms. Huang testified about hearing from Mr. Ravi that his roommate had committed suicide. The university sent counselors to his room and suggested he take several days off, he said, describing Rutgers officials in a text as “mad helpful.”

After that testimony, which emerged during cross-examination by Mr. Ravi’s lawyer, Middlesex County First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure told the judge that she might recall some earlier witnesses to ask them about conversations with Mr. Ravi about the suicide.

Judge Glenn Berman said he had allowed the questioning of Ms. Huang to continue because jurors might not have understood the texts without that context.

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