Rutgers Trial Witness Admits He Lied

PHOTO: Rutgers student Lokesh Ojha testifies during the trial of Dharun Ravi at the Middlesex County Courthouse Feb. 29, 2012 in New Brunswick, N.J.PlayJohn OBoyle/The Star-Ledger/AP Photo
WATCH Rutgers Trial: Witness Admits Lying

A Rutgers University student described in court today how he gave Dharun Ravi a thumbs up after Ravi maneuvered his webcam so that it was aimed at the bed of his gay roommate Tyler Clementi.

The witness, Lokesh Ojha, also admitted that he lied to police about his role in Ravi's alleged webcam spying.

ojha, dressed in a white shirt and dark tie, was smiling and confident during his questioning by prosecutors. By the time the defense lawyer finished cross examining him, Ojha was clearly shaken, his voice meek and at times quaking as he was warned that he could be prosecuted for lying under oath.

Under questioning by the prosecution, Ojha said he followed Ravi's instructions to try and watch Clementi's date with another man on the night of 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."

Ravi, who is now 20, is charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering and hindering arrest.

Clementi, who was 18, committed suicide a few days after his roommate allegedly spied on him through the webcam on his computer, and his case gained national prominence as it was cited by activists as an example of anti-gay bullying.

Ojha's testimony appears to bolsters the prosecution's contention that Ravi intentionally set up his webcam to view Clementi's gay date on Sept. 21, and that Ravi invited others to watch.

Ravi and another friend, Molly Wei, peeked for a few seconds at Clementi during an earlier tryst on Sept. 19.

Wei has told the court that the reason Ravi was concerned about Clementi's date was because he was an older man who was apparently not from Rutgers and Ravi feared the man would steal his iPad.

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Ojha testified today that Ravi asked him for help during the afternoon of Sept. 21.

"He told me that it was happening again...and that he wanted to use my computer," Ojha said.

When Ojha asked what was happening again, Ravi replied, "Tyler's encounter with another man," he testified.

Using Ojha's computer, Ravi contacted his own webcam which showed Clementi's half of their dorm room. Ravi then returned to his own room.

"I remember he [Ravi] was walking around. He moved his computer an inch... I saw Tyler's bed," Ojha testified.

"I said it was good and he said he couldn't really hear me and I gave him a thumbs up," Ojha said.

Ojha also told the court Ravi "told me to send out a text to somebody telling them to check Dharun's twitter," which included a message suggesting they watch his webcam that night.

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Under cross examination, Ojha admitted that he failed to police about what happened on Sept. 21, despite being under oath.

"I wouldn't say it was a lie," Ojha said, then changed his mind, conceding, "Well, yeah."

When asked by defense lawyer Steven Altman, "Were you lying?" Ojha answered, "Yes."

Ojha, looking shaken and pausing to pour himself water from a pitcher, said he was "scared."

He later added, "I was a freshman and I thought my college career was over because I helped him, I helped him set it up."

Altman asked Ojha, "Is there anything else in that statement that is a lie?" Ojha said the rest of his statement was accurate.

A key witness, the man who was Clementi's date, is expected to testify on Thursday and he will appear in court amid extraordinary efforts to keep his identity secret.

A gay man identified only by his initial "M.B." is expected to testify as early as Thursday. M.B.'s identity has not been revealed and even Ravi's defense lawyers had to argue to get his name. The defense was finally given M.B.'s name on the condition that it not be revealed. The jury also knows the identity of M.B., but have been prohibited from disclosing his name.

The judge has allowed cameras in the courtroom and the trial is live-streamed on several Web sites, including But when M.B. testifies, the media has been ordered to train the pool camera on M.B.'s hands and not his face. Audio from the court will also be turned off.

While the press in the courtroom will see and hear M.B., the witness will not enter or leave the courtroom through public hallways, and instead will enter the courtroom through a secure entrance.

M.B. has been described as a man about 30 and a bit hefty. His identity is being protected because he is being treated as a victim of the alleged crime and he is not out as a gay man.

M.B. and Clementi met on the online gay meeting site Adam4Adam. The two had a rendezvous in Clementi's Rutgers dorm room on Sept. 19, 2010 and again on Sept. 21.

He is expected to testify about his relationship with Clementi, what he and Clementi knew about the webcam and Clementi's reaction to his roommate.

A key element for the prosecution is to demonstrate that Clementi felt intimidated by Ravi's alleged actions. That has prompted a tussle over whether to admit an email that Clementi sent to his dorm's resident adviser asking for a room change.

Clementi's email reads, "I feel like my privacy has been violated and I feel extremely uncomfortable sharing a room with someone who acted in such a wildly inappropriate manner."

Judge Glenn Berman ruled that most of Clementi's email can be admitted since it describes his emotional state, but the jury cannot see the portion of Clementi's email that characterizes Ravi behaving "in such a wildly inappropriate manner."

The email was sent to RA Raahi Grover who in his report to dorm superiors wrote, "Resident Tyler Clementi approached me today 9/21 at 11pm to discuss issue of violation of privacy by his roommate Dharun Ravi."

Grover's memo adds, "Tyler is upset and uncomfortable and wants a room change asap and for Dharun Ravi to receive some sort of punishment"

Ravi's lawyer argued that allowing Clementi's written complaint before the jury would be prejudicial since they are prohibited from bringing in other evidence that Clementi had to be encouraged by another friend to file the complaint, and Clementi chose to return to his room with Ravi despite Grover's offer to let him stay elsewhere.

Earlier testimony has featured Ravi's classmates describing how he tweeted about Clementi's gay dates and urged them to also watch.

Those classmates have also repeatedly said that Ravi had not expressed any anti-gay feelings or disdain for Clementi for being gay. They said he was more concerned that Clementi's date was older and apparently not a Rutgers student who might steal his iPad.