Rutgers Trial: Did Prosecution Make Its Case Against Dharun Ravi?

Bias Intimidations

Count 2 (3rd Degree), Count 4 (2nd Degree), Count 6 (3rd Degree) and Count 8 (2nd Degree)

This is the heart of the state's case, the epicenter of national media attention and, in Count 4, the charge that could put Ravi in prison for up to 10 years. These are the hate-crime charges that must prove that Ravi's actions were meant to intimidate Clementi and M.B. because they were gay.

A string of prosecution witnesses have all said they never heard Ravi express any animosity and anti-gay sentiments toward Clementi. In fact, Ravi told some he liked his roommate.

The prosecutor, however, has entered computer messages authored by Ravi saying "We have to keep the gays out" and that he saw Clementi "making out with a dude. Ew."

The state's bias claims are stronger for the second, aborted attempt to capture Clementi on live camera. A juror could reasonably believe the first incident was innocent enough, and Ravi turned off the webcam – after only a few seconds – when he saw the two men kissing.

But when Clementi asked Ravi if he could have the room to himself on Sept. 21, Ravi realized a second date was going to occur. So, testimony and evidence shows, he told some of his friends and set up his webcam to capture it again, and the state contends it was to view sexual activity and humiliate Clementi.

The state has not made an overwhelming argument that there was intimidation, and further, they produced little evidence that Ravi was motivated by homophobia. In fact, defense attorney Altman has elicited testimony from several witnesses, saying Ravi is not a homophobe.

This will no doubt become the central issue during closing statements from both attorneys. It is reasonable to expect Altman to directly attack this charge when he presents his case next week.

Tampering with Physical Evidence (Counts 9 & 10)

Count 9 (4th Degree) and Count 10 (4th Degree)

Evidence has shown that Ravi on Sept. 22 deleted, and then reposted a tweet he authored inviting friends to watch the second episode on Sept. 21.

Ravi tweeted: "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30-12. Yes, it's happening again."

He later deleted the tweet and posted: "Ignore the last tweet. Stupid draft."

Altman will try to show this was merely the panicked actions of a scared kid, caught in a prank that went wrong.

Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution

Count 11 (3rd Degree), Count 12 (2nd Degree) and Count 13 (3rd Degree)

Count 11 refers to the replacement Tweet Ravi authored saying people should disregard his invitation to watch.

Count 12 reflects the testimony of Molly Wei, who said Ravi texted her while she was in the police station on Sept. 23. Ravi was telling her to tell authorities it was a prank and they had no intention of seeing anything so intimate.

This has emerged as a critical charge. Originally presented as a third-degree crime, which carries a presumption of no jail time, the judge noted before trial it was actually a second-degree crime, for which the presumption is a prison sentence of five to 10 years. The indictment was amended, upgrading the degree, but the judge said before trial, if Ravi is found guilty of this count, he may treat sentencing as if it were a third-degree crime.

Witness Tampering

Count 14 (3rd Degree)

Molly Wei testified that on Sept. 23 she received a phone call from Ravi, while she was at the Rutgers Police Station, and then sent her a text message in an attempt to convince her to temper her statement to authorities.

Ravi's message: "Did you tell them we did it on purpose?...Because I said we were just messing around with the camera. He told me he wanted to have a friend over and I didn't realize they wanted to be all private."

Wei responded: "Omg dharun why didn't you talk to me first i told them everything."

Tampering with Physical Evidence

Count 15 (4th Degree)

This also refers to the tweet message Ravi sent to Wei, and later deleted from his phone.

Credit defense attorney Altman with making the prosecutor rest the state's case with a whimper. Trial lawyers, as a rule, like to end their case with a bang, and McClure intended to end her case by showing the hour-long video of Ravi being questioned by police.

Altman, intentionally or otherwise, challenged the chain of custody of state's evidence Wednesday, compelling McClure to put investigators back on the stand to demonstrate that their evidence had been handled properly. It was far from riveting testimony.

Now it is Altman's turn.

Altman's strategy is clear, as he laid out in his opening statement. He repeatedly pointed out that though Ravi was legally an "adult" in the fall of 2010, he was actually "an 18-year-old kid," fresh out of high school on his first venture out into the world.

"We all do stupid things," Altman said. "But he never committed a crime."

Altman will no doubt continue to hammer that theme. His witness list is comprised of college friends and a private detective. He will likely call on more friends of Ravi to testify the defendant is not a homophobe.

"You can expect Altman to portray Ravi as a young man only three weeks into his college career who was doing dumb things that many college students do," Fahy said. "He wants the jury to see a kid who did not understand the consequences of what he did and the pain he may have caused, that there never was criminal intent of any kind."

And of course, the looming question is: Will Ravi take the stand?

"I think it is unlikely that Ravi will testify," said Fahy. "He can only hurt himself by taking the stand.

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