(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) — A Rutgers University student described in court Wednesday how he gave Dharun Ravi a thumbs-up after Ravi maneuvered his webcam so that it was aimed at the bed of his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi.
The witness, Lokesh Ojha, also admitted that he lied to police about his role in Ravi’s alleged webcam spying.
Ojha, dressed in a white shirt and dark tie, was smiling and confident during his questioning by prosecutors. By the time the defense lawyer finished cross-examining him, Ojha was clearly shaken, his voice meek and at times quaking as he was warned that he could be prosecuted for lying under oath.
Under questioning by the prosecution, Ojha said he followed Ravi’s instructions to try and watch Clementi’s date with another man on the night of Sept. 21, 2010, but the webcam connection didn’t work.
“Then I saw [Ravi] in the lounge and I said, ‘Yo, it didn’t work.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I have been getting that from a lot of people.”
Ravi, who is now 20, is charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering and hindering arrest.
Clementi, who was 18, committed suicide a few days after his roommate allegedly spied on him through the webcam on his computer, and his case gained national prominence as it was cited by activists as an example of anti-gay bullying.
Ojha’s testimony appears to bolster the prosecution’s contention that Ravi intentionally set up his webcam to view Clementi’s gay date on Sept. 21, and that Ravi invited others to watch.
Ravi and another friend, Molly Wei, peeked for a few seconds at Clementi during an earlier tryst on Sept. 19.
Wei has told the court that the reason Ravi was concerned about Clementi’s date was because he was an older man who was apparently not from Rutgers and Ravi feared the man would steal his iPad.
Ojha testified Wednesday that Ravi asked him for help during the afternoon of Sept. 21.
“He told me that it was happening again…and that he wanted to use my computer,” Ojha said.
When Ojha asked what was happening again, Ravi replied, “Tyler’s encounter with another man,” he testified.
Using Ojha’s computer, Ravi contacted his own webcam, which showed Clementi’s half of their dorm room. Ravi then returned to his own room.
“I remember he [Ravi] was walking around. He moved his computer an inch…I saw Tyler’s bed,” Ojha testified.
Ojha also told the court Ravi “told me to send out a text to somebody telling them to check Dharun’s twitter,” which included a message suggesting they watch his webcam that night.
Under cross-examination, Ojha admitted that he failed to tell police about what happened on Sept. 21, despite being under oath.
“I wouldn’t say it was a lie,” Ojha said, then changed his mind, conceding, “Well, yeah.”
When asked by defense lawyer Steven Altman, “Were you lying?” Ojha answered, “Yes.”
Ojha, looking shaken and pausing to pour himself water from a pitcher, said he was “scared.”
He later added, “I was a freshman and I thought my college career was over because I helped him, I helped him set it up.”
Altman asked Ojha, “Is there anything else in that statement that is a lie?” Ojha said the rest of his statement was accurate.
A key witness, the man who was Clementi’s date, is expected to testify on Thursday and he will appear in court amid extraordinary efforts to keep his identity secret.
Earlier testimony has featured Ravi’s classmates describing how he tweeted about Clementi’s gay dates and urged them to also watch.
Those classmates have also repeatedly said that Ravi had not expressed any anti-gay feelings or disdain for Clementi for being gay.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sam Turner, Deseret News