(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) — The mystery witness in the trial of Rutgers student Dharun Ravi made an appearance in court Friday under extraordinary efforts to keep his identity secret. The witness, identified only by his initials M.B., had several dates with Ravi’s roommate Tyler Clementi and was expected to testify about what Clementi said and how he felt when he discovered that Ravi had spied on them through his webcam.
Under court restrictions, the media was allowed to only show M.B.’s hands during the testimony and the audio of the pool camera was shut off. He arrived in the courtroom without going through any of the courthouse’s public hallways.
Ravi is on trial charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest. He faces 10 years in prison if convicted. The case gained national prominence when Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge a day after he complained to his dorm adviser about the spying and had asked for a different room. Clementi left a suicide note, but its contents have not been disclosed.
M.B. arrived in court in a blue and white striped shirt and black pants. He was clean-shaven and had short black hair. In front of a packed courtroom with Clementi’s mother, father, and two brothers in the front row, the witness described how he met Clementi on a gay dating site, Adam4Adam, and began chatting online with him in August 2010. They decided to meet in person once Clementi began attending Rutgers.
M.B. said he drove to Rutgers for the first time Sept. 16, 2010, to hang out with Clementi from about midnight until about 2 a.m., while Clementi’s roommate, Ravi, was out of the room. The next time M.B. went to Rutgers to see Clementi, on Sept. 19, 2010, the pair were spied on by Ravi, who activated his webcam for several seconds and saw the two men standing up and kissing in the dorm room. M.B. testified that the pair had sex during the date.
M.B. said he recalls seeing the “business card shape” webcam “on top of the computer” during his encounter on Sept. 19. “The only reason the webcam stuck out was because I was in a compromising position,” he told the courtoom.
During the date, M.B. said he recalled hearing people outside the dorm room window laughing. “I could hear people out in the courtyard. People joking, people laughing…at someone else’s expense,” he said.
After the date, as M.B. walked out of the dorm building alone, he noticed Rutgers students staring at him. “I started walking down toward the end of the hallway. A group of people standing there were looking at me…it seemed unsettling,” he said. “I would say about five people [were watching me].”
Prior to M.B.’s testimony, a string of Rutgers students testified about the week during which the alleged spying occurred, disclosing that Ravi told friends that he had spied on Clementi’s Sept. 19 date and planned to do it again during another date on Sept. 21.
Ravi also sent Twitter messages about the spying, and invited others to activate his webcam remotely to watch the tryst as well, the students testified.
The students also told the court that Ravi, now 20, had not expressed any animosity towards gays or towards Clementi. One student said Ravi’s concern was that his roommate’s date was an older man who was not apparently a Rutgers student and that Ravi feared the man would steal his iPad.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sarah Sanders Petersen, Deseret News