Rutgers Case Continues with Investigator Testimony

Posted March 5, 2012 in Crime Criminal Law by Keith Ecker

Suicide of Tyler Clementi

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The Rutgers University cyberbullying trial will resume today with testimony from investigators and technical experts. The case, which sparked a national debate on cyberbullying particularly against gays and lesbians, will determine the fate of student Dharun Ravi, who secretly used a Webcam to spy on his roommate while Clementi was engaged in intimate contact with another man. Ravi allegedly spied on two separate occasions in September 2010 and wrote about his actions to his followers on the social networking site Twitter. Within days after the second alleged spying incident, Clementi killed himself by jumping from the George Washington Bridge.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have been questioning witnesses for more than a week. The majority of those called to the stand have been fellow students, including Molly Wei who was allegedly with Ravi during the spying incident and was herself initially charged as well. On Friday, Clementi’s partner captured in the Webcam footage, known only as “M.B.,” testified that he noticed the Webcam while with Clementi and found it suspiciously positioned toward them. Student Lokesh Ojha provided some of the most damning evidence when he testified that he helped Ravi set up the Webcam and position toward Clementi’s bed. This directly contradicts Ravi’s defense that the Webcam was intended to ensure the safety of his personal electronics.

Ravi is charged with 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation, a hate crime that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. In order to prove bias intimidation, the prosecution must convince the jury that Ravi intentionally acted to humiliate or intimidate Clementi because of his sexual orientation.

Absent throughout most the trial so far is mention of Clementi’s suicide. At the discretion of Judge Glenn Berman, prosecutors are precluded from linking the alleged spying incident to the suicide while the defense cannot make the case that Clementi killed himself for other reasons.

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