RUPD officer, U. representative testify at trial
The identity of M.B., the man Tyler Clementi shared a sexual encounter with before committing suicide, remained a mystery as the fifth day of the Dharun Ravi trial came to a close yesterday at the Middlesex County Courthouse.
Jurors heard testimonies from four additional witnesses, including a Rutgers University Police Department officer called on Sept. 22 for a “welfare, well-being” visit to Clementi’s Davidson Hall C room on Busch campus, Ravi’s former Ultimate Frisbee team captain, a University housing representative and one of Ravi’s childhood friends.
The morning session continued with Lokesh Ojha, one of Ravi’s friends and a fellow resident at the time, who took the stand to finish his cross-examination.
Ojha said Wednesday that Ravi asked for his computer, which he used to test the webcam in Ravi’s room. Ravi angled the camera toward Clementi’s bed, admitting that he lied about his involvement in Wednesday’s testimony.
He also said he lied to police officers during his questioning about his role in the alleged webcam viewing.
Ojha said he followed Ravi’s instructions to watch Clementi and his male guest on Sept. 21, 2010, but he was unable to view the video because the webcam connection did not work.
“Then I saw [Ravi] in the lounge and I said, ‘Yo, it didn’t work.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I have been getting that from a lot of people,’” Ojha said.
Another inconsistency with his testimony was the location of Ravi’s webcam. The camera, which Ojha thought was embedded in the computer, was attached to the monitor of Ravi’s computer rather than built in.
Ojha was dismissed after about an hour of cross-examination.
Former Ultimate Frisbee Captain Geoffrey Irving said on Sept. 19, 2010 — the first day Ravi watched an encounter between Clementi and his male guest, M.B. — the team, including Ravi and friend Scott Xu, were at a tournament in South Jersey earlier in the day.
Irving, a University alumnus, said he and Ravi returned around 6 p.m. from the conference, but he could not remember if Ravi said anything about the proposed webcam viewing.
Irving said Ravi spoke about his roommate when it came up in conversation, but not in a malicious manner.
“He had a suspicion that his roommate was gay,” Irving said.
Irving and Ravi were at Ultimate frisbee practice on Sept. 21, 2010 from 9 to 11 p.m. with Xu during the night of the second webcam viewing.
After the practice, Irving drove Ravi to the dining hall to get takeout. While in line, Irving said Ravi told him about the proposed viewing and was “uncomfortable” with his living situation, but did not say anything malicious.
Jason Tam, a Cooper Union College sophomore and Ravi’s friend since seventh grade, took the witness stand next. Tam said he communicated regularly with Ravi through text message, Gmail and AOL Instant Messenger.
Tam said he knew Ravi worked on a talking computer program called “Jarvis,” which gave him alerts, such as bus schedules and the weather.
Jennifer Frost-Hellstern, University Residence Life assistant director for Student Support, set up the “Simplicity” residence hall incident report three years ago.
Frost-Hellstern said she personally saw the report Clementi submitted, indicating that Ravi had spied on his roommate.
After viewing the report, Hellstern took a screenshot of Ravi’s Twitter page.
“Social media can be changed. … I wanted to make a copy of what I saw,” Hellstern said.
Frost-Hellstern read the Twitter posts as part of her first examination.
Ravi tweeted that his roommate requested the room again on the night of Sept. 21, 2010, and warned his friends not to chat him from 9 p.m. to midnight.
This tweet was follow by one that read “Everyone ignore that last tweet … stupid draft,” written via text message nine hours before in a tweet posted on Ravi’s Twitter account.
RUPD officer Krzysztof Kowalczyk was the last witness to take the stand.
Kowalczyk was on patrol on Busch campus the night of Sept. 22, 2010 when he received a dispatch call to do a welfare check on a student in Davison Hall C.
Officers conduct welfare checks on a person’s location and to see if they need assistance, he said. It is a common practice, and nothing out of the ordinary, he said.
“It’s a step below a missing persons report,” he said as Prosecutor Julie McClure questioned the severity of the call.
Kowalczyk knocked on the door of Room 30 around 9:30 p.m. to find Ravi inside the room.
Ravi said he last saw Clementi around 4:30 or 5 p.m. when he dropped off his backpack.
Kowalczyk said Ravi told him Clementi had an older male “who didn’t appear to be a college student” stay over their room Sunday night, but the guest left before he woke up.
The officer gave Ravi his business card with instructions to call him if he had any additional details or if Clementi returned.
Kowalczyk said he continued to interview people around Room 30, but did not find any useful information from anyone but the residents living in Room 32. This information was not revealed in court.
He then reported his findings to Sgt. Timothy Walsh. Kowalczyk did not provide further details from the night.
The trial is expected to resume today and last for another three weeks. The date for M.B.’s testimony has not been announced, but press will be unable to photograph him because he is an alleged victim of a sexual crime.
Ravi is facing charges of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and hindering apprehension, which carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
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