LIVE VIDEO — Watch the closing arguments in the trial of a former Rutgers student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man.
Closing arguments 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 kicked off Tuesday with the defense attorney making the case that his client was a "kid," not a criminal.
The defendant is 20-year-old Dharun Ravi, who faces 15 criminal charges, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy and seven charges that he covered his tracks. Closing arguments in the case began Tuesday.
Defense attorney Steven Altman said his client is a kid, not a criminal, and he emphasized that there was no recording, no broadcast and no YouTube video of the encounter.
"An 18-year-old boy, a kid, a college freshman had an experience, had an encounter that he wasn't ready for, that he didn't expect, that he was surprised by," Altman said of Ravi, adding that his client was not acting out of hatred of his roommate or gays in general.
"If there's hate in Dharun's heart, if there's ugliness in Dharun's heart," Altman, fighting a cold and speaking with an uncharacteristically soft voice, asked jurors, "Where's there some information and some evidence to support it?"
Prosecutors are expected to make their closing arguments later in the day. Jurors are expected to start deliberating by Wednesday, but they will have to wrestle with some relatively untested legal issues.
Ravi's randomly assigned roommate, Tyler Clementi, a fellow first-year student at Rutgers, committed suicide on Sept. 22, 2010 — three days after authorities say Ravi spied on him and one day after he's accused of trying to do it again.
The jury heard about 30 witnesses over 12 days of testimony in the trial. They did not hear testimony from Ravi himself, though they did see video of a statement he gave to police.
"It's my decision, yes," Ravi told the judge after the ninth and final defense witness testified.
Altman spent parts of his first hour poking holes in the credibility and memory of two of the state's key witnesses, both Rutgers students who said Ravi came to their room and showed them how to access video from his webcam.
There's no dispute that Ravi saw a brief snippet of video streamed live from his webcam to the laptop of a friend in her dorm room on Sept. 19, 2010.
The friend, Molly Wei, said Clementi and his guest — identified in the trial only by the initials M.B. — were fully clothed and kissing at the time.
The man told the jury he noticed the webcam. "I had just glanced over my shoulder and I noticed there was a webcam that was faced toward the direction of the bed," said M.B. "Just being in a compromising position and seeing a camera lens - it just stuck out to me."
Ravi posted a Twitter message that night that concluded: "I saw him making out with a dude. Yay." Altman characterized that as an attempt to talk about something that surprised him - an example of immaturity, perhaps, but not a criminal act.
Later, Wei showed some other students. They said the men had removed their shirts, and that the webstream was turned off after mere seconds. Wei was initially charged, but later entered a pretrial intervention program that could allow her to avoid jail time and a criminal record if she complies with a list of conditions.
Two days after the first incident, Clementi asked for the room alone again.
This time, Ravi tweeted: "Yes, it's happening again" and "dared" followers to connect with his computer to video chat. There was testimony that he told one friend that there was going to be a "viewing party" at Rutgers. Asked by police, Ravi said it was a joke.
But there was no webcast. Ravi's lawyers say it's because he disabled his computer before Clementi had M.B. over. And witnesses placed Ravi at Ultimate Frisbee practice for most of the time he was asked to stay away from his room.
Judge Glenn Berman said on Monday that some of the charges are difficult because they have not been frequently tested by higher courts.
After jurors left for the day Monday, Berman made rulings on the instructions he will give them. But he wasn't fully confident that an appeals court would not view things differently, especially regarding the bias intimidation law. "I could be wrong," he told lawyers. "I said this statue to me is muddled. It could be written better."
The challenge for jurors could be deciding whether the laws apply to what Ravi is alleged to have done.
One of the invasion-of-privacy charges accuses Ravi of viewing exposed private parts or sex acts — or a situation where someone might reasonably expect to see them.
Another accuses him of recording or disseminating the images to others. There's no evidence that the webstream was recorded, and witnesses said Ravi wasn't there when Wei opened the webstream for other students.
The bias intimidation charges could also be complicated. Ravi can be convicted of intimidation if he's also found guilty of an underlying invasion-or-privacy charge. Two of the four charges of that crime are second-degree crimes punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Each of those charges says Ravi committed invasion of privacy — or attempted to — out of malice toward gays — or that Clementi believed he was targeted because of his sexuality.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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