Rutgers Trial: Cop Describes Search for Tyler Clementi

PHOTO: Defense attorney Steven Altman talks with Dharun Ravi during a break in his trial  at the Middlesex County Courthouse, Feb. 29, 2012 in New Brunswick, N.J.
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A Rutgers police officer testified today that when he searched for missing student Tyler Clementi his roommate Dharun Ravi did not mention that Clementi was upset over Ravi's alleged webcam spying and had asked to switch rooms the previous day.

Police officer Krzysztof Kowalczy said he was told to conduct a "well-being" check for Clementi on Sept. 22, 2010 after police found Clementi's possessions on the George Washington Bridge. Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the bridge earlier that day.

Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, left a note but its contents have never been made public. His death came a day after he complained to school officials that Ravi had used a webcam to spy on him while on a gay date Sept. 19 and had invited others to watch during a second date on Sept. 21.

Clementi had requested a room change Sept. 21 and both students had conversations with Rutgers residence life employees about the incidents.

On Sept. 22 Kowalczy asked Ravi if he had any idea where Clementi was or if he had been acting unusually. Ravi said he didn't know where his roommate was, but that Clementi had been acting normally earlier in the afternoon.

Ravi told Kowalczy about Clementi's Sept. 19 date with an "older, slightly overweight" male with a "scrubby beard and short black hair," the officer testified, but did not mention that Clementi was upset that Ravi has used his webcam to catch Clementi and the man kissing. Ravi also didn't mention that Clementi was angry over Ravi's tweet inviting others to watch Clementi's second date on Sept. 21, the officer testified.

The search for Clementi ended when police discovered that he had jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. His death sparked a national outcry over cyber bullying and anti-gay bullying.

Ravi is on trial on charges of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering and hindering arrest. Ravi is not charged in connection to Clementi's death.

Ravi Told Fellow Rutgers Students About Webcam Spying

Prior to Kowalczy's testimony, three of Ravi's friends were called by the prosecution to testify that Ravi told them about setting up a webcam that could spy on his roommate.

Jeffrey Irving, who played ultimate Frisbee with Ravi on the college's team, told the court that Ravi told him on Sept. 21 about a plan to spy on Clementi later that night.

After Frisbee practice on Sept. 21, Irving drove Ravi to the campus dining hall to eat with the team. While waiting in line for their food, Ravi told Irving about using his webcam to peek on his roommate kissing a man two days earlier.

"(Ravi) told me that he had set up a webcam of some sort to capture images of his roommate. He said he had done it before that date, and that he was planning on doing it again that night," Irving said.

Lokesh Ojha, a friend of Ravi's, told the court today and Wednesday that he helped Ravi set up the camera on Sept. 21 in order to spy on Clementi.

Ojha described how he gave Ravi a thumbs up after Ravi maneuvered his webcam so that it was aimed at Clementi's bed.

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Under questioning by the prosecution, Ojha said he followed Ravi's instructions to try and watch Clementi's date on Sept. 21, 2010, but the webcam connection didn't work.

"Then I saw [Ravi] in the lounge and I said, 'Yo, it didn't work.' And he said, 'Yeah, I have been getting that from a lot of people."

Ojha's testimony appears to bolster the prosecution's contention that Ravi intentionally set up his webcam to view Clementi's gay date, and that Ravi invited others to watch.

Ravi and another friend, Molly Wei, peeked for a few seconds at Clementi during a tryst on Sept. 19. Wei has told the court that the reason Ravi was concerned about Clementi's date was because Clementi's guest was an older man who was apparently not from Rutgers and Ravi feared the man would steal his iPad.

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