Today was the first day of the Dharun Ravi trial in connection with the of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi. Ravi is facing charges of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest. As ABC News reports, “Clementi, 18, killed himself by leaping off the George Washington Bridge a few days after Ravi twice spied on his gay trysts. His shocking became the focal point for a national campaign to stop cyber-bullying and homophobic bullying among students.”
Fellow Rutgers students were brought to the stand today “to illustrate how Ravi spread the word about Tyler’s date with a man and invited people to watch.” The prosecution hopes to prove that “Ravi purposefully broadcast the images and shared them with other students in order to make fun of Clementi for being gay and having a gay relationship.” Students testified that “Ravi was not homophobic and that he and other students did not talk much about the event after it happened.”
What disturbs me is how cavalierly Ravi and his fellow students seem to be treating Clementi’s . According to ABC News, some of the testimony even elicited laughs from the courtroom.
“The witnesses, who were mostly friends or acquaintances of Ravi, said that on Sept. 19, 2010, Ravi and another student Molly Wei activated the webcam for a few seconds before turning it off.” Cassandra Cicco described Clementi’s companion as having “dark hair and a goatee and was solid looking, maybe 5’9, and looked to be older than a college student. But not ly old.” That description drew laughs from those in attendance.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Julie McClure says Ravi was “seeking to brand Tyler as different from everybody else, as gay, to set him up for contempt and ridicule. These acts were not a prank, not an , not a mistake, and certainly were not good natured… These acts were purposeful, intentional, planned. I would suggest to you beyond that they were mean spirited, malicious, and criminal.”
On the other hand, according to Ravi’s defense attorney Steven Altman, “You’re going to see evidence that Dharun is not homophobic, not anti-gay. Evidence that he never recorded, never broadcast images of his roommate. He never harassed his roommate, or ridiculed or spoke negatively about his roommate. He thought he was nice guy and had no problem with him.” Altman said his client “might be stupid at times, but he’s 18 years old and he’s certainly not criminal.” Whether or not the jury will agree remains to be seen.