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Roommate of gay Rutgers student reportedly sent him conciliatory texts

Dharun Ravi, former Rutgers student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man , leaves Middlesex County Court on Friday, Dec. 9, 2011 in New Brunswick, N.J.

The first phase of jury selection began Friday in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man.

Dharun Ravi, 19, is charged with bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and tampering and hindering prosecution in a case that prompted a national conversation about bullying of gay teens after 18-year-old Tyler Clementi's suicide in September 2010. Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison.


But based on recently released records of texts sent from from Ravi, his defense attorneys are expected to argue he had no ill-will against his roommate, say reports in The New Yorker and The New Jersey Record.

Authorities allege Ravi's inappropriate behavior began before he and Clementi even began school, when he learned who he'd be rooming with his first year at Rutgers. "Found out my roommate is gay," he posted on Twitter in August.

Then on Sept. 19 -- a few days before Clementi killed himself, according to Twitter archives stored by Google, he tweeted again: "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

("Molly" is Molly Wei, a former high school classmate of Ravi's and also a student at Rutgers, who pleaded guilty to lesser charges and received probation.)

But on Sept. 22, 2010, just minutes after Clementi posted on Facebook that he was going to jump to his death, Ravi texted him, claiming he had no issues with his homosexuality.

"I've known you were gay and I have no problem with it," said a text from Ravi at 8:56 p.m. the day Clementi, of Ridgewood, N.J., committed suicide, according to court documents reported by The Record. "In fact, one of my closest friends is gay and he and I have a very open relationship. I just suspected you were shy about it which is why I never broached the topic. I don’t want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding. It’s added to my guilt."

'I wanted to make amends'
Authorities say that Ravi used the webcam to spy on his roommate  on Sept. 19 — and that he tried to do it again two nights later. The next night, Clementi wrote on Facebook, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” He had been at school for about three weeks at that point.

The first text Ravi sent to Clementi that night, reported The Record, said, "Sunday night when you requested to have someone over I didn’t realize you wanted the room in private. I went to molly’s room and I was showing her how I set up my computer so I can access it from anywhere. I turned on my camera and saw you in the corner of the screen and I immediately closed it.

“I felt uncomfortable and guilty of what happened. Obviously I told people what occurred so they could give me advice. Then Tuesday when you requested the room again, I wanted to make sure what happened Sunday wouldn’t happen again and not to video chat me from 930 to 12. Just in case, I turned my camera away and put my computer to sleep so even if anyone tried it wouldn’t work. I wanted to make amends for Sunday night.”

The texts, however, conflict with the sentiments expressed in archives of Ravi's tweets. A Sept. 21, 2010 tweet read,  “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and midnight. Yes, it’s happening again.”

According to a lengthy New Yorker article examining Clementi and Ravi's interactions, Clementi was aware of Ravi's spying. On Sept. 21, at about 8:30 p.m., Ravi left the dorm room for frisbee practice, The New Yorker reported. Clementi had read the "happening again" tweet. His romantic partner, who has not been identified publicly other than by the the initials "M.B.," was due to arrive, so Clementi went to see the dorm's resident adviser, according to The New Yorker. Clementi told his R.A. about his concerns; his R.A. took the situation seriously, and had Clementi file an official complaint via email, reported The New Yorker.

The following day, Ravi had no classes, and the dorm R.A. visited him in his room while Clementi was in class and spoke with him about the severity of the situation, the New Yorker reported. Ravi was defensive during the conversation, according the R.A.'s account in police reports.

Hours later, when Clementi posted that he was jumping off the George Washington Bridge, Ravi's conciliatory texts starting coming in within five minutes.

Ravi faces 15 charges. The trial is expected to last three to four weeks, reported NJ.com.

On Friday, about 2,000 prospective jurors were summoned, but most had conflicts that would prevent them from serving in a trial expected to last three to four weeks.

More than 200 were brought to the Middlesex County Courthouse to start filling out questionnaires. A few dozen of them were dismissed because of hardships, including one man who said that "emotionally" he didn't belong on the jury. He was excused without being asked to explain further.

Lawyers in the case are scheduled to meet Tuesday to go through the surveys and decide which jurors have conflicts or other reasons that make them ineligible. Those remaining are to be brought back on Wednesday for interviews.

It's not clear when the process will be complete and opening arguments will be held.

This article includes reporting by msnbc.com staff and The Associated Press.

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