NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Prosecutors rested their case Thursday in the trial of a former Rutgers University student, setting the stage for lawyers to begin their defense of the young man accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate’s intimate encounter with another man.
Lawyers for defendant Dharun Ravi are expected to present an investigator and several character witnesses starting Friday.
They said their first witness will be Frank DiNinno, an investigator who worked on the case. On cross-examination of other witnesses, defense lawyers raised the idea that he was too friendly with the student witnesses in the case.
Defense lawyers said he’ll be followed by several students — perhaps as many as eight or nine — who will serve as character witnesses.
They’ll also have to decide whether Mr. Ravi will take the stand. If he testifies, it won’t be until at least Monday.
Mr. Ravi, now 20, is charged with 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and several crimes related to trying to cover up his actions.
He faces up to 10 years in prison if he’s convicted of the most serious offense, bias intimidation. He also could be deported to India, where he was born and remains a citizen, if he’s convicted on any counts.
His roommate, 18-year-old violinist Tyler Clementi, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010 — just days after the alleged spying and one day after what prosecutors say was an attempt to spy on him again.
Mr. Ravi is not charged with Clementi’s death, though in many ways the suicide lies at the heart of the case.
The prosecution called nearly two dozen witnesses in 10 days of testimony. The majority of them were college students who testified about seeing the Web stream or being told about it. The other man who was seen in the video — identified only by the initials M.B. — also testified.
There was brief testimony Thursday focusing on the chain of custody of evidence, including computers and cellphones.
On Wednesday, prosecutors put on the witness stand a detective who interviewed Mr. Ravi on Sept. 23, 2010 — after Clementi was believed dead but before Mr. Ravi was charged. Jurors saw the nearly hourlong video of the interrogation.
The investigator, Michael Daniewicz, repeatedly accused Mr. Ravi of lying about details. And Mr. Ravi, for his part, agreed that he had violated his roommate’s privacy by going to a friend’s room and using her computer to view images from his own webcam, which he had set up to accept webchat requests automatically.
He said he did not see anything graphic and turned the stream off as soon as he realized what was going on.
“I didn’t realize it was something so private,” he said. “It was my room, too.”
He said he sent a tweet about what he saw, later, “daring” people to videochat with him two days later during the hours when Clementi had requested the room again.
But he said that he didn’t mean it.
“I said that sarcastically, first of all,” he said, adding that he didn’t want people to watch the feed. Jurors had heard in earlier testimony, though, that Clementi had visited Mr. Ravi’s Twitter page 38 times in the two days before he killed himself and saved a screenshot of that tweet.
But Mr. Ravi said in the interview that he took steps to keep others from viewing the second dorm-room liaison. “And I turned off my computer,” he said. “I put it to sleep.”
“Regardless of what I said, my computer wasn’t accessible,” he said.
Mr. Ravi explained that he was also joking when he texted a friend that other Rutgers students were having a “viewing party” to watch the stream.
Mr. Ravi said he wanted to protect his roommate.
“I’m not trying to hero myself,” he told the officer.
Mr. Ravi was arrested days after the interview.
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