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Dharun Ravi trial: 'I knew Clementi was gay'

Last updated on: March 8, 2012 10:04 IST

Dharun Ravi trial: 'I knew Clementi was gay'

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Arthur J Pais in New Jersey

Arthur J Pais reports from the New Brunswick, New Jersey court room.

Picked up from his suburban New Jersey home soon after his Rutgers University roommate Tyler Clementi had committed suicide and interrogated for more than 30 minutes, Dharun Ravi was repeatedly accused of not being truthful.

Jurors in the case of invasion of privacy, bias discrimination and 13 other charges against Ravi, who is no more with Rutgers, watched with intense focus a police DVD in which investigator Michael Daniewicz asked Ravi whether Ravi thought he invaded Clementi's privacy.

"Well, yes,' said Ravi, with his hands almost in the air, "But I didn't realise it was something so private. It was my room also. That's why I immediately closed it (the web camera)."

Ravi , 20, is not charged with the suicide of Clementi on  September 22, 2010 but he faces 10 years in prison if found guilty of the more serious of the 15 charges.

He is charged with airing the Clementi's video, then 18, having sex with an older man on September 18, 2010 he had met through a gay Internet site. Ravi is also charged with trying to tape a second encounter between Clementi and his gay date which reportedly was not recorded due to a technical snag.

The defense had earlier submitted a text message sent by Ravi on the day of the suicide, saying that he had nothing against people being gay. No one knows if Clementi read that note at all.

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Image: Dharun Ravi
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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As the tape of the police interviewed played, Ravi, dressed as usual in an elegant suit, hardly looked at the screen. His father who has been attending the trial every day for the last eight days sat outside the courtroom.

This was the first time jurors and others in the court including reporters from top publications including The New York Times heard Ravi's voice.

He was wearing a black teeshirt and looked tired and uneasy. The interview ended suddenly after the investigators told Ravi that his father wanted him to have a lawyer.

Earlier in the interview, Michael Daniewicz, an investigator with the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office who was assisting the Rutgers campus police, told Ravi that he believed he was lying and that recovered computer data would reveal the truth.

He calmly and in an almost friendly way grilled Ravi on a Twitter message Ravi sent on September 21: "Anyone with iChat, he said, "I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again."

But Ravi said he did not really want friends to try to watch that night. Daniewicz looked at him with a baffled expression.

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Image: The police eveidence being presented in court
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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"I said that sarcastically, first of all," Ravi said on camera. "And I turned off my computer, I put it to sleep." In earlier testimonials, it was indicated that Ravi, knowing Clementi had come to know of the first recording, wanted to record the second sexual tryst but the camera had failed.

Ravi's lawyer had argued earlier that his client had set up the camera to make sure that Clementi's gay friend would not steal anything that belonged to Ravi.

Didn't Ravi send  a text message to a friend at another college in which he mentioned that some Rutgers students were planning a "viewing party" to watch the webstream the night of September 21, Daniewicz asked..

"I was joking around saying kids here were going to have a viewing party," Ravi said. "When I'm uncomfortable about something, I joke about it."

When Ravi said he turned his webcam away from Clementi's bed that night, Daniewicz said it was found pointed directly at Clementi's bed.

 

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Image: Dharun Ravi's police interrogation on September 23
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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In the note, Ravi had messaged to Clementi, "I want to explain what happened Sunday night when you requested to have someone over. I didn't realise you wanted the room in private. I went to Mollys room (Molly Wei a Rutgers student testified against Ravi last week) and I was showing her how I set up my computer so I can access it from anywhere. I turned on my camera and saw you in the corner of the screen and I immediately closed it."

The prosecution is trying to prove that Ravi is homophobic but his note conveyed a different image.

"I've known you were gay and I have no problem with it," Ravi texted. "In fact one of my closest friends is gay and he and I have a very open relationship. I just suspected you were shy about it which is why I never broached the topic. I don't want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding, its adding to my guilt."

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Image: Investigator Michael Daniewicz
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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He also texted, "You have the right to move if you wish but I don't want you to feel pressured to without fully understanding the situation."

Ravi is also accused of deleting 86 text messages to high school friends soon after he came to know of Clementi's suicide, which prosecutors will argue was an attempt to mask the truth.

Court reporters pointed out how Ravi appears to try to explain his actions to Clementi and also pretend he never sent the first "dare you to video chat me" post.

"Then Tuesday when you requested the room again I wanted to make sure what happened Sunday wouldn't happen again," he wrote.

"I went on twitter to let my friends know you wanted the room again and not to video chat me from 9.30 to 12 just in case, I turned my camera away and put my computer to sleep so even if anyone tried it wouldn't work. I wanted to make amends for Sunday night. I'm sorry if you heard something distorted and disturbing but I assure you all my actions were good-natured."


Image: Tyler's father Joseph Clementi
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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