Rutgers Witness Says Others Were Urged to Peek at Tyler Clementi

PHOTO: Dharun Ravi listens to testimony during his trial at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick, N.J., Feb. 28, 2012.
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Rutgers students testified today that Dharun Ravi urged other students to spy on his roommate's gay date, while defense lawyers suggested a key witness agreed to testify against Ravi in exchange for having criminal charges against her dropped.

Ravi is on trial for invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering and hindering arrest for allegedly using his webcam to spy on his freshman roommate Tyler Clementi during a date with another man.

Part of the charges against Ravi include that he tweeted about what he saw when he peeked through his webcam and that he allegedly invited others to watch when Clementi was having a second date with the man. That second viewing, however, never occurred.

The case gained national prominence when Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge several days later and the story became a focal point for anti-bullying activists.

Alissa Agarwal, a Rutgers student who was friends with Ravi, and Molly Wei, who was originally charged along with Ravi, testified for the prosecution and underwent lengthy cross examination by the defense today.

A poignant moment in the case came when Wei told the court that after her first interview with police she went home to her parents instead of back to her dorm.

"It was overwhelming because at the end of the statement the police told me that Tyler was missing and may have committed suicide," Wei said. "I was overcome with emotions. I felt so bad about what happened and I wanted to be with my parents."

It was the first time Clementi's suicide has been mentioned in the trial other than at the beginning of jury selection when the judge told prospective jurors that Clementi would not be testifying because he is dead, but that the charges were unrelated to the suicide.

Agarwal told the court that she received a tweet from Ravi on Sept. 19 that read, "roommate asked for room for the night. I went to molly's room and turned on my webcam and he was making out with a dude. Yay."

She said she received another tweet from Ravi on Sept. 21 supposedly alerting his friends that Clementi was asking for their shared dorm room again so he could have another date and suggesting they watch by contacting his webcam.

"Anyone with ichat, I dare you to ichat me from the hours of 930 and midnight. Yes, it is happening again," Ravi tweeted.

Agarwal said that on the evening of Sept. 21 Ravi explained to her in the presence of other students that his webcam was set on auto accept "in order for multiple people to be able to view Tyler's side of the room." He also demonstrated for her by opening up her iChat program and it showed Clementi's side of the dorm room.

"He (Ravi) was just talking about the second tweet, warning us about it," she testified. "He was encouraging us to abide by his tweet."

Agarwal said that she spent several hours with Ravi later that evening, but he did not peek at his webcam or discuss Clementi with her again.

Earlier in the day, Wei told the court that she and Ravi peeked Clementi for a few seconds, seeing the two men kissing. But she said Ravi was not alarmed that Clementi had a gay liaison, but worried that the much older man did not appear to be a Rutgers student and might steal his iPad.

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Nevertheless, after she was initially interviewed by police, she contacted them again on Sept. 27 because she wanted to give them more information. She told them about a conversation she had with several friends at lunch and was surprised when her friends -- who were not in the room when she and Ravi watched Clementi -- brought up the incident.

"One said it was so stupid what Dharun did... And they told me about the twitter, tweets they received about a viewing party," Wei testified. She said she had not been aware that Ravi had tweeted about what they saw on his webcam.

The cross examination of Wei also included the introduction of a series of text messages between Ravi and Wei while she was being questioned by police. Ravi asked her in a text, "did you tell them we did it on purpose?"

She responded, "Yeah..well that we didn't know what we were going to see."

At one point Wei answered, "omg dharun why didn't u talk to me first. I told them everything"

Wei was initially arrested and charged with invasion of privacy, but those charges have been suspended on the condition that Wei complete a pre-trial intervention program which includes Wei's testimony at the trial and doing 300 hours of community service.

Ravi's lawyer Steven Altman asked Wei today that when she voluntarily went to the police a second time on Sept. 27, "Did you think you had committed a crime?"

"I personally felt like I had did something wrong, but I didn't understand the law...I didn't understand what I did to get these charges," Wei replied.

"Is it true you didn't want to go to jail?" Altman asked.

"Yes," she replied.

"Did you learn that if you did PTI [pre-trial intervention] you didn't have to plead guilty?" he asked.

"Yes," she said.

"The only way they would let you into PTI was to testify against Dharun?" Altman asked.

"Yes," she said.

Follow the Rutgers trial with @mckoenigs

Altman got Wei to state that the initial charging document was incorrect. The police document that accompanied her arrest said she "recorded" Clementi's date and that she "broadcast" it.

"Did you ever record anything?" Altman asked. "No," she replied.

"Did you ever broadcast anything?" the defense lawyer pressed. "I don't believe I did," Wei answered.

In the news coverage following Clementi's death it was widely reported that the tryst was recorded and broadcast by Ravi. The webcam did not record Clementi and it did not broadcast anything.

Ravi, who was 18 at the time of the incident, turned 20 today.

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