NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. March 2, 2012 -- The mystery witness in the case against Rutgers student Dharun Ravi grew red-faced and visibly agitated today as Ravi's defense attorney questioned him in detail for five hours about his relationship with Tyler Clementi.
The witness, known only by the initials M.B., was asked to read aloud texts he sent to Clementi, saying "What's up sexy." Under cross examination, M.B. admitted that their encounters turned to sex within minutes of seeing one another, that one of their three dates lasted less than an hour, and that M.B. never even knew Clementi's last name until he read about his death in the newspaper.
M.B., who is about 30, was with Clementi in the college freshman's dorm room the night of Sept. 19, 2010 when Ravi used his webcam to peek for a few seconds at the two men kissing. Ravi allegedly prepared to spy on them again during a subsequent date on Sept. 21 and invited others to watch, the prosecution claims.
Clementi discovered Ravi's spying just days before he killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in New York.
Ravi, now 20, is on trial charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Clementi, 18 ,left a suicide note, but its contents have not been revealed and he is not charged in connection with Clementi's death.
M.B. testified under extraordinary conditions meant to keep his identity secret. Under court restrictions, the media was allowed to only show M.B.'s hands during the testimony and the audio of the pool camera was shut off. He arrived in the courtroom without going through any of the courthouse's public hallways.
Clementi's romantic partner tried to fold his visibly trembling hands on the witness stand as he answered Altman's five hours of questions about the pair's relationship.
"You are asking me these complicated questions and expecting me to give you a yes or no answer," he said at one point to Altman.
Altman, at times sitting on top of a desk in the courtroom and swinging his legs, told the witness that he was not trying to embarrass him, but asked him to go over in detail how quickly the two men became intimate in the dorm room. He asked whether the pair began embracing within seconds of Ravi leaving the dorm room.
"Yes. We had started to get intimate together (and embraced) halfway between the door and the bed," M.B. said.
Altman then asked if they ended up together on the bed.
"Yes. It was five minutes (from the embrace)."
M.B. had previously described the dates at the dorm room, saying he noticed Ravi's webcam pointed at the couple while they were in bed together and felt uneasy about it.
"I noticed there was a webcam, faced over in the direction of the bed. I just thought it was strange. Being in a compromising position, it just caught my eye that there was a camera lens looking right at me," he told the courtroom.
He also noted that he had concerns about having any further dates in the dorm room after he heard people laughing and joking at someone else's expense outside of Clementi's dorm window and noticed students staring at him as he walked out of the building after the date.
"I started walking down toward the end of the hallway. A group of people standing there were looking at me...it seemed unsettling," M.B. said, describing his exit from the dorm room after his date with Clementi. "I would say about five people (were watching me)."
But Altman asked M.B. to go over the details again, noting whether either Clementi or M.B. had remembered to close the blinds or turn off the lights, and asking him to confirm that during one "date," he was there for a scant 45 minutes, as opposed to the two hours he had previously mentioned.
"I noticed that the blinds were slightly apart, maybe a quarter of an inch, when we were in bed together maybe 15 or 20 minutes into (the date)," he said. "I just glimpsed over in the midst. We were wrapped up in the moment."
Altman also asked why the two never met for dates anywhere besides Clementi's dorm room.
Leaning forward at time and looking visibly irritated, he told Altman, "I was allowed to be there."
M.B. admitted to Altman that he had not shaved on the night of Sept. 19, and therefore may have looked older to students in the dorm. Altman's contention that M.B. looked "shady" and out of place has been a key part of the defense's case that Ravi activated the webcam to ensure his belongings were not being stolen by a stranger, and not to spy on a sexual encounter.
Rutgers Trial Grills Tyler Clementi's Date
During the prosecution's questioning, which last an hour, M.B. described how the pair met on the gay dating website Adam4Adam and chatted online throughout August. When Clementi moved into his Rutgers dorm room, they decided to meet.
The pair had three dates from Sept. 16 to Sept. 21, and planned to continue seeing each other, M.B. testified. They kept in touch through text messages and email and planned to see one another again, though M.B. said he had reservations about whether he wanted to visit the dorm room again.
"I did intend to see him. As far as whether I intended to see him there again, I felt a little uneasy about it," he said. "To get intimate, we had talked about going to a hotel."
"We discussed meeting at my house...weekdays at my house were usually free," he said.
Prior to M.B.'s testimony, a string of Rutgers students testified about the week during which the alleged spying occurred, disclosing that Ravi told friends that he had spied on Clementi's Sept. 19 date and planned to do it again during another date on Sept. 21.
Ravi sent Twitter messages about the spying, and invited others to activate his webcam remotely to watch the tryst as well, the students testified.
The students also told the court that Ravi had not expressed any animosity towards gays or towards Clementi.