Dharun Ravi texted a high school friend that Rutgers University students were having a “viewing party with a bottle of bacardi and beer” to watch an intimate encounter between his roommate and another man streamed online, reinforcing the prosecution’s contention that Ravi wanted to invade the privacy of Tyler Clementi and was biased against gays.
Ravi encouraged his friend Michelle Huang to take a look as well, explaining he had a webcam pointed at Clementi’s bed and “the monitor is off so he can’t see you,” she testified March 5 at Ravi’s trial.
Another text from Ravi to Huang read: “Yeah, keep the gays away.”
It was some of the most damaging testimony to date, with prosecutors using Ravi’s own words to try to convince jurors that he is anti-gay and not only planned to watch a second intimate encounter between Clementi and his guest, but invited others to watch as well.
The texts contradict the defense’s contention that Ravi used the webcam because he was concerned that Clementi’s guest, known only as M.B. to protect his identity, would steal his iPad.
Ravi’s attorneys, though, have been successful in getting prosecution witnesses to testify that Ravi never spewed any hatred toward Clementi and did not have an issue with his sexual orientation.
Ravi, 20, of Plainsboro, N.J., faces multiple counts of invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension, and bias intimidation—a hate crime that carries the heftiest punishment of up to 10 years in prison. In order for prosecutors to prove bias intimidation, they must show that Ravi intimidated Clementi because of his sexual orientation. Clementi, of Ridgewood, N.J., killed himself just days after his first encounter with M.B. was streamed live online, drawing attention to the issues of cyber bullying and online privacy in schools and colleges nationwide.
Prosecutors said that first encounter took place on Sept. 19, 2010, when Ravi and his dorm mate Molly Wei watched Clementi and M.B. kissing via the webcam he had set up. At the time, Ravi posted a tweet saying he was in Wei’s room and had just seen his roommate “making out with a dude.”
Wei—who avoided criminal prosecution by taking a plea that required her to testify against Ravi—then briefly activated the camera again to show her friends and roommate.
But according to testimony from dorm mate Lokesh Ojha, when Ravi learned Clementi’s companion was visiting again on Sept. 21, he enlisted Ojha’s help to position the camera directly at Clementi’s bed.