Both sides present closing arguments in Ravi trial, jury to deliberate Wednesday
The defense and prosecution gave their closing arguments before the jury Tuesday in the New Jersey v. Dharun Ravi trial.
Steven Altman, Ravi’s defense attorney, said early on in the day that his client invading Tyler Clementi and M.B.’s privacy was the product of his first encounter with homosexuality after high school.
“He didn’t know how to deal with it because he was a kid,” Altman told the jury of now 20-year-old Ravi. “You have to decide because of that unexpected experience if he did it because … he’s ignorant or maybe immature or as … an 18-year-old to react, or is it criminal?”
But First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure argued that Ravi’s actions were criminal. When Ravi first learned Clementi was his roommate in August 2010, he researched Clementi’s email address and deduced for himself that he could be gay.
“He told high school friends. He was bothered by Tyler Clementi’s sexual orientation,” McClure said.
Altman reminded the jury that Ravi initially set up his webcam to view his and Clementi’s room because he was concerned about his belongings, which Molly Wei, one of the state’s key witnesses, confirmed in her testimony.
“Molly said Dharun came in and his first reaction was, ‘Who is this guy? My iPad is in there. If it’s missing when I get back, Tyler’s going to pay,’” Altman said.
In her closing argument, McClure said Ravi would have taken his iPad with him if he were really worried about his possessions.
“It was a pretext. It was what he wanted people to believe,” McClure said. “He wanted people to believe that he was worried about his possessions.”
As part of Altman’s summations, he showed an hour-long clip of Ravi’s police interrogation, telling the jury to pay attention to how Ravi answered questions, this time without looking at a transcript of the conversation.
In the tape, police talked to Ravi about his tweet that read, “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to iChat me from the hours of 9:30 and midnight. Yes, it’s happening again.”
Ravi sent the tweet on Sept. 21, 2010, after Clementi had asked for their Busch campus Davidson Hall C room for the night.
The investigator on the tape said this seemed like an invitation for Ravi’s followers on Twitter to access his webcam via iChat’s auto-accept feature.
“I said it sarcastically first of all, and second of all, I turned off my computer so they wouldn’t be able to. … I put it to sleep so they wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Ravi said in the tape.
He said he turned his computer off because he felt guilty for what he saw on Sept. 19, 2010. In a testimony last week, Timothy Hayes from the University’s Office of Information Technology confirmed that Ravi’s IP address was inactive on Sept. 21 from 9:25 p.m. to 11:19 p.m.
But McClure said it was not Ravi, who was said to be at Ultimate Frisbee practice during these times, who shut his computer down, but Clementi.
“Tyler Clementi knew what was supposed to be happening that evening. He saw that tweet and he knew,” she said. “It couldn’t have been the defendant because the defendant was not even at Davidson Hall at 9:25 [p.m.]”
Altman argued that someone intimidated by his peers for engaging in sexual activity with a man would not continue to behave that way, but Clementi did apply for a roommate change and filed complaints with residence assistant Raahi Grover before having M.B. over again on Sept. 21.
“You don’t think that he was intimidated by learning that information? Fearful, embarrassed that he had been exposed?” McClure asked the jury. “He was targeted because of his sexual orientation. M.B. was targeted because he was his guest.”
Altman said his client was accused of deleting information on his cellphone, but he did not delete any information from his computer.
“He never asked anybody to hide information or delete information,” he said.
Ravi did delete the initial tweets he sent out about seeing his roommate with a man and the second iChat tweet, replacing them with two new ones, McClure said.
Ravi changed the initial tweet to “Don’t you dare iChat with me,” and the following read, “Everyone ignore that last tweet. Stupid drafts.”
“He tries to undo what he knows is out there,” McClure said.
She also said that in Ravi’s discussions with police, he spun lies when he had the opportunity to give his version of the events.
“There was no other reason than to expose [Clementi and M.B.’s] sexual orientation,” McClure said. “It wasn’t a joke. The defendant wasn’t happy about this.”
Ravi faces 15 counts against him, including invasion of privacy, tampering with evidence and bias intimidation, with the latter charge carrying up to 10 years in prison.
Judge Glenn Berman will brief the jury about the laws and charges against Ravi for about 90 minutes Wednesday, with jurors deliberating afterward.