Rutgers Defendant’s Text: ‘What Did You Tell Them?’
(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) — Rutgers University student Molly Wei received text messages from Dharun Ravi while she was questioned by police about the alleged webcam spying of Tyler Clementi’s gay tryst, she said Monday in court.
“I think that he thought we were going to get in trouble, so he wanted to make it seem like it was more of an accident,” Wei, 19, testified in a New Jersey court Monday.
Wei took the witness stand to testify against Ravi, 19, who is accused of activating a webcam to spy on his roommate, Clementi, 18, just days before Clementi killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.
Both Wei and Ravi viewed the images on Wei’s computer. Wei, who was originally charged with two counts of invasion of privacy, entered a pretrial intervention program that required her to perform 300 hours of community service in exchange for the charges being dropped.
On Monday, Wei said that Ravi texted her multiple times when she was being interviewed by police about the alleged spying, asking her what exactly she was confessing to investigators.
“Did you tell them we did it on purpose? What did you tell them when they asked why we turned it on? I said we were just messing around with the camera,” Ravi said in messages.
Ravi is charged with witness tampering for the messages he sent to Wei, in addition to invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, and hindering arrest.
Wei responded to Ravi’s messages, saying that she had told investigators “everything” that had happened on Sept. 19, 2010, when Ravi came to her dorm room after Clementi asked to have the room to himself for the night.
Ravi proceeded to show Wei how he set up his webcam to be remotely activated, and used Wei’s computer to turn it on. The pair watched “briefly” as an image of Clementi and another man standing up and kissing came on the screen, Wei said. They then turned the webcam off, she testified.
“We were both just kind of really shocked, like, I can’t believe we just saw what we did,” she said. “It shouldn’t have happened and we saw something that we didn’t expect to see and it just felt weird.”
Following the initial viewing, Ravi left the room and Wei’s roommate, Cassandra Cicco, and Cicco’s friends came to the room and asked to view the webcam. Wei activated the camera again for “like two seconds,” before shutting it off, and the girls left, she said. The image on the screen was similar to the one previously, with Clementi and another man standing and kissing, this time with their shirts off.
On cross-examination, Wei said Ravi wanted to peek into the room because Clementi’s date was an older man and did not appear to be a Rutgers student. She told the court that Ravi feared that the man would steal his iPad.
Earlier Monday, Judge Glenn Berman ruled that the jury will not be allowed to hear Clementi’s complaint to the school that his roommate used a webcam to spy on him. The complaint was included in Clementi’s request for a dorm room change after he caught roommate Ravi watching him while on a gay date, and later tweeting that Clementi was going to have a second date.
Clementi listed as his reason for wanting a different dorm room as: “Roommate with webcam spying on me/want a single room.”
Clementi’s death became the focal point for a national campaign to stop cyber-bullying and homophobic bullying among students.
Prosecutor Julie McClure, who has called Ravi’s actions “malicious, purposeful, and criminal,” claimed Monday that the online request showed that Clementi knew about the spying and felt intimidated by Ravi. McClure said in the first day of the trial that Ravi targeted Clementi because he was gay.
Defense attorneys Steven Altman and Philip Nettl argued against admitting the reason for Clementi’s room change request — “Roommate with webcam spying on me” — into evidence, saying it was hearsay that was unreliable. The statement may or may not have authored by Clementi himself, and was not investigated by the university at the time of the request to be true, Altman argued.
The judge ruled that the part of the statement in which Clementi accuses Ravi of spying could not be admitted.
The debate over evidence came midway through the morning testimony of witnesses called by the prosecution, including two students who saw or heard about the webcam incident from Ravi.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio