Rutgers Witness Says Others Were Urged to Spy on Tyler Clementi
(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) — Rutgers students testified Tuesday that Dharun Ravi urged other students to spy on his roommate’s gay date, while defense lawyers suggested a key witness agreed to testify against Ravi in exchange for having criminal charges against her dropped.
Ravi is on trial for invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering and hindering arrest for allegedly using his webcam to spy on his freshman roommate Tyler Clementi during a date with another man.
Part of the charges against Ravi include that he tweeted about what he saw when he peeked through his webcam and that he allegedly invited others to watch when Clementi was having a second date with the man. That second viewing, however, never occurred.
The case gained national prominence when Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge several days later and the story became a focal point for anti-bullying activists.
Alissa Agarwal, a Rutgers student who was friends with Ravi, and Molly Wei, who was originally charged along with Ravi, testified for the prosecution and underwent lengthy cross examination by the defense on Tuesday.
A poignant moment in the case came when Wei told the court that after her first interview with police she went home to her parents instead of back to her dorm.
“It was overwhelming because at the end of the statement the police told me that Tyler was missing and may have committed suicide,” Wei said. “I was overcome with emotions. I felt so bad about what happened and I wanted to be with my parents.”
It was the first time Clementi’s suicide has been mentioned in the trial other than at the beginning of jury selection when the judge told prospective jurors that Clementi would not be testifying because he is dead, but that the charges were unrelated to the suicide.
Agarwal told the court that she received a tweet from Ravi on Sept. 19 that read, “roommate asked for room for the night. I went to molly’s room and turned on my webcam and he was making out with a dude. Yay.”
She said she received another tweet from Ravi on Sept. 21, supposedly alerting his friends that Clementi was asking for their shared dorm room again so he could have another date and suggesting they watch by contacting his webcam.
“Anyone with ichat, I dare you to ichat me from the hours of 930 and midnight. Yes, it is happening again,” Ravi tweeted.
Agarwal said that on the evening of Sept. 21, Ravi explained to her in the presence of other students that his webcam was set on auto accept “in order for multiple people to be able to view Tyler’s side of the room.” He also demonstrated for her by opening up her iChat program and it showed Clementi’s side of the dorm room.
“He [Ravi] was just talking about the second tweet, warning us about it,” she testified. “He was encouraging us to abide by his tweet.”
Agarwal said that she spent several hours with Ravi later that evening, but he did not peek at his webcam or discuss Clementi with her again.
Earlier in the day, Wei told the court that she and Ravi peeked Clementi for a few seconds, seeing the two men kissing. But she said Ravi was not alarmed that Clementi had a gay liaison, but worried that the much older man did not appear to be a Rutgers student and might steal his iPad.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio