Rutgers Summations: Prosecution Calls ‘Immature Kid’ Defense False
(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) — The trial of Rutgers student Dharun Ravi drew to a close Tuesday as prosecutors and defense lawyers sparred over whether Ravi’s spying on his gay roommate Tyler Clementi was a criminal act by an anti-gay bigot or the “stupid” actions of an immature college freshman.
The closing summations in the webcam spying case against Ravi came after three weeks of testimony from 22 witnesses.
Ravi, 20, is on trial for allegedly invading Clementi’s privacy after he activated a webcam and saw Clementi having an encounter with another man in their shared Rutgers dorm room on Sept. 19, 2010. Ravi is accused of telling others about the webcam spying, and encouraging them to also watch during a subsequent Clementi date on Sept. 21.
In addition, Ravi is charged with bias intimidation, witness tampering and hindering arrest.
Clementi killed himself just days after the spying incident by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. His death and the charges against Ravi sparked public outrage over cyber-bullying and gay-bullying among students.
Ravi is not charged in connection with Clementi’s death.
During the state’s closing argument on Tuesday, prosecutor Julie McClure repeatedly pointed out Ravi’s messages to friends and Twitter followers that he had seen his roommate kissing another man on his webcam and encouraging them to see for themselves during a second date.
McClure referenced text messages and conversations Ravi had in which he talked about the spying and said he was “set up” to spy via webcam again.
His plans to spy for a second time were ultimately thwarted by Clementi, who unplugged Ravi’s computer and disabled his webcam, McClure argued. She challenged Ravi’s claim that he turned off the webcam himself.
She also dismissed Ravi’s claim that he peeked at his roommate’s date because he feared the “creepy” guest would steal his iPad. If he was that worried, he would have taken the iPad with him when he left, the prosecutor said.
In addition, she noted that Ravi’s first reaction after tracking the name of his new roommate was to write to a friend, “F… my life. He’s gay,” something he repeated to other friends and teammates on Rutgers ultimate Frisbee team.
McClure asked the jury to imagine what it was like for Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, to realize his roommate had spied on him and not knowing how many people may have watched.
“Three weeks into the semester and (Clementi) finds out that his sexual orientation has been broadcast to the defendant’s twitter followers,” McClure said. “His private sexual activities have been exposed. What do you think he’s thinking? ‘If Molly saw it, did Cassie see it? Did people in the hall see it? Did people in Davidson C see it?’ You don’t think that he was intimidated by learning that information? Fearful, embarrassed? He’d been exposed.”
Ravi’s attorney, Steven Altman, argued during his four-hour summation that Ravi made one innocent mistake on Sept. 19, the night of Clementi’s first date: he activated his webcam for two to five seconds to keep an eye on his belongings, and was surprised to see Clementi kissing another man.
“Why we’re here is because on Sept. 19, and Sept. 21, 2010, an 18-year-old boy, a kid, a college freshman, had an experience, had an encounter that he wasn’t ready for,” Altman told the jury, claiming that Ravi reacted “immaturely” to what he saw on the screen.
The text messages and Twitter messages about a second viewing were nothing more than immature jokes, and Ravi never intended to spy for a second time, Altman argued.
The jury will reassemble at 9 a.m. Wednesday to hear the judge’s instructions, which are expected to take about 90 minutes, before beginning deliberations over a verdict.
Ravi could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.
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