Defense attorney Philip Nettl and Dharun Ravi listen to testimony during… (John O'Boyle / Associated…)
The case of a former Rutgers University student charged with using a webcam to spy on his roommate during a gay encounter has gone to a New Jersey jury that begins deliberating hate crime issues on Wednesday.
Dharun Ravi, faces 15 counts, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy, related to the transmission of a video stream from the dorm room where his roommate, Tyler Clementi, was having an intimate encounter with another man, identified only as M.B.
Clementi committed suicide days later, on Sept. 22, 2010, by jumping from the George Washington Bridge.
Clementi’s death became a rallying point, drawing attention to what activists said was the type of hate-motivated bullying often faced by young gays. Ravi is not charged in connection with the suicide.
The prosecution and defense completed their summations of the trial on Tuesday. Judge Glenn Berman said he would instruct the jury on Wednesday and send it off to begin deliberations.
The basic facts are not in dispute. Both sides agree that Ravi saw a brief video stream from the room and that he posted numerous tweets about the incident.
What is in dispute, however, is the portrayal of Ravi.
According to Middlesex County first assistant prosecutor Julia McClure, Ravi never wanted a gay roommate and his actions were both malicious and criminal. Ravi’s tweets worried Clementi, who feared wide exposure and embarrassment, she argued.
But defense attorney Steven Altman argued that Ravi was more childish than criminal. The former student was without hate, the lawyer said.
"If there's hate in Dharun's heart, if there's ugliness in Dharun's heart," he said. "Where's there some information and some evidence to support it?"
The question of hate is key for the jury. If convicted of the hate-crime counts, Ravi could face up to 10 years in prison.
According to testimony, Clementi asked Ravi to give him some privacy in their room on Sept. 19, 2010, so that he could meet with a friend -- who testified in the trial but was disguised to protect his identity. The man, M.B., was among more than two dozen witnesses in 12 days of testimony.
The prosecution and defense agree that a webcam stream from Ravi’s room went to a laptop in the room of one of Ravi’s friends, Molly Wei, who also was initially charged in the case. She testified for the prosecution after reaching an agreement to avoid jail time.
According to witnesses, the stream of video showed Clementi and M.B. without shirts. The stream was never posted on the Web, as originally thought.
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