Today is Dharun Ravi’s 20th birthday. Yesterday was the second day of Dharun Ravi’s trial for fifteen charges, including bias intimidation as a hate crime, relating to the suicide of his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi. Molly Wei, another Rutgers student who was charged in the case but who took a plea bargain, took the stand and testified that she was “shocked” and Ravi was “freaked out” to see Clementi kissing another man on the webcam that Ravi had set up to spy on his roommate. (Prosecutors also say that, crucially, Ravi tweeted about the incident and invited his followers to tune in for a second webcam spying attempt.)
But other students who took the stand testified that they’d never seen Ravi exhibit any particular anti-gay bias; one “remembered Ravi had met a classmate at orientation whom he knew to be gay, and whom he thought ‘was rich and cool and he liked him.’”
Witnesses also claimed that Ravi’s webcam monitoring was motivated not out of sexual prurience, but out of concern for his belongings in the presence of Clementi’s “shady,” “scruffy,” “creepy” visitor. Wei, who watched the encounter with Ravi and, like him, texted several friends about it, testified that they weren’t expecting it to turn sexual. She turned on the camera a second time with friends after Ravi had left the room. A school official also testified that they hadn’t seen Clementi’s pre-suicide request for a new roommate.
The trial will continue today, and Wei will re-take the stand.