Tyler Clementi Cyberbullying Trial Begins Today


Clementi's mixed reaction to the incident and Ravi presents a critical obstacle for the prosecution.

"The fact that Clementi knew about the webcam incident and didn't seem to really care in his messages could make it hard to establish that he was intimidated," Fahy said.

After deliberating for more than a day and receiving additional encouragement from Yang, Clementi reported Ravi to their resident advisor and filled out the online request for a room change, citing how his roommate had spied on him with a webcam. Instead of leaving the room that day after his advisor offered him another place to sleep, however, Clementi arranged for another rendezvous in the dorm with M.B.

On Sept. 21, he sent Ravi a text: "Could I have the room again like 9:30 till midnight?" and received the reply, "Yeah no problem." Ravi then tweeted twice about the rendezvous occurring in his room and texted a friend at Cornell, "people are having a viewing party."

Because Clementi was keeping tabs on Ravi's tweets, he intervened by unplugging the power strip for Ravi's computer and webcam, making any viewing impossible. Ravi would later claim in a statement that he had already dismantled the webcam.

The next morning, Clementi talked to his mother on the phone without mentioning anything unusual, and later attended his orchestra rehearsal, according to an article in People magazine.

That afternoon, Ravi and Clementi saw one another in their dorm room, but there is no indication that they exchanged words. Ravi does recall in his statement seeing Clementi "doing something by his desk," but police have not released the handwritten note found in the room.

Ravi left the room to meet with a friend, and returned to find that Clementi had gone. At 8:42 p.m., Clementi posted his last status update on Facebook, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

While Clementi's suicide has been deemed legally irrelevant to Ravi's trial, it nevertheless served as the catalyst for the subsequent investigation and prosecution.

"It is only because of its association with the suicide, that this made it to court," Fahy said. "It shouldn't have happened."

From a pool of more than 200 potential jurors, the prosecution and defense have begun to select the 12 who will eventually decide this question.

Defense attorney Steve Altman has hired a jury selection expert to help trim the list and a detailed questionnaire was sent to all potential jury members Friday. Several questions address whether the jurors have dealt personally with roommate issues, hold any biases against gays or people of Indian descent, and whether the jurors themselves have "ever had a prank or practical joke played on you."

There are nearly 150 people listed as potential witnesses, including more than 100 for the prosecution. First and foremost is Molly Wei.

Wei had known Ravi since grade school and reconnected with him when she saw his name in the hallway of her freshman dorm. During high school, she played volleyball and sang in the choir before enrolling in the six-year pharmacy program at Rutgers. Her testimony will likely address Ravi's motivation for spying on Clementi on the night on Sept. 19.

The other highly anticipated witness is the man identified only as M.B, a 25-year-old man whom Clementi met on an online hook-up site. According to one of Clementi's online exchanges, M.B. was not openly gay and worked two jobs at the time. He lived off campus and was initially hesitant about the rendezvous in the freshman dormitory. But because of the expense and inconvenience of a hotel room rendezvous, they agreed to meet in Clementi's room.

Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman has allowed the proceedings to be televised, but he has ordered the cameras to be removed from the courtroom when M.B. takes the stand, in order to protect his identity. And though M.B.'s full name appears on a questionnaire presented to prospective jurors, he has ordered them not to disclose that name to anyone.

Ravi not only faces significant jail time, but also deportation if he is found guilty after what is expected to be a four-week trial. His younger brother Jay is the family's only U.S. citizen, which has added an international dimension to the case that the New Delhi Television network has already begun to cover extensively.

"This story has all the levels necessary to cause a media storm -- young college students from a big university, bias intimidation, ? pressure from advocacy groups, and family members saying he was just an innocent foolish kid," Honecker said.

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