Rutgers Students Say Tyler Clementi Webcam Peeking Was 'No Big Deal'

PHOTO: This undated photograph provided by Joseph and Jane Clementi shows their son Tyler Clementi at a family function. | Dharun Ravi, arrives for the opening arguments at his trial in New Brunswick, N.J., Feb. 24, 2012.
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A Rutgers student who watched a webcam broadcast of freshman Tyler Clementi and another male "making out" said that neither Dharun Ravi, who broadcast the images, or any other students were fazed by the fact that Clementi was gay or having a gay encounter.

"It came up for like a split second, of two males leaning up against the bed making out, kissing mouth to mouth," Cassandra Cicco told the court today of what she saw on Ravi's webcam broadcast. "We didn't really talk about it. It was not that big of a deal."

Cicco was one of several Rutgers students who testified in the first day of Ravi's trial. He is charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest.

Clementi, 18, killed himself by leaping off the George Washington Bridge. a few days after Ravi twice spied on his gay trysts. His shocking death became the focal point for a national campaign to stop cyber-bullying and homophobic bullying among students.

The students who testified today were called to the stand by prosecutors, apparently to illustrate how Ravi spread the word about Tyler's date with a man and invited people to watch. But during cross examination, defense lawyer Steven Altman asked the students about Ravi's attitudes towards gays and about Clementi being gay.

Cicco said that she never heard Ravi disparage his roommate for being gay or having a gay relationship before or after his Webcam spying. Cicco was in the room when Molly Wei, her roommate, and Ravi decided to watch the webcam.

The prosecution alleges that Ravi purposefully broadcast the images and shared them with other students in order to make fun of Clementi for being gay and having a gay relationship.

Like Cicco, other witnesses testified today that Ravi was not homophobic and that he and other students did not talk much about the event after it happened.

"It's scandalous because the guy (with Clementi) was older, not because it was a guy," said Alvin Artha, a friend of Ravi's from the dormitory. "He was older, not a Rutger's student. That's why Dahrun was acting the way he was."

Cicco also noted the older appearance of the man, known only as M.B. in court documents, who was with Clementi.

"He had dark hair and a goatee and was solid looking, maybe 5'9, and looked to be older than a college student,. But not obscenely old," she testified, drawing laughs from the courtroom.

The wintesses, who were mostly friends or acquaintaces of Ravi, said that on Sept. 19, 2010, Ravi and another student Molly Wei activated the webcam for "a few seconds" before turning it off.

Austin Chung, who went to high school with Ravi and Wei, said he was told of Clementi's encounter through a computer chat just moments after it had happened. Messages between Wei and Chung were relayed in courtroom, showing Wei typing, "Oh my god, Austin, Dahrun's in my room, the craziest thing just happened."

As Chung read the description of Clementi "making out with some dude," he replied "Eww," but soon after stopped discussing the incident.

Cicco, who was in the room during the broadcast, said that no one really commented on the images after they saw them, noting that it was "not that big of a deal. If he wants to have a relationship with men that's his business. We don't have anything against homosexuals."

Prosecutor Julie McClure had said in her opening statement that Ravi targeted Clementi because he was gay, an act that was planned, malicious and criminal. What he did was more than just a prank, she argued.

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