Friend: Former Rutgers Student Spoke of Webcam "Viewing Party"

Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010.

By Geoff Mulvihill
|  Monday, Mar 5, 2012  |  Updated 5:27 PM EDT
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Text Messages Scrutinized in Ravi Trial

Dharun Ravi's high school friend Michelle Huang took the stand Monday in the Rutgers webcam spying trial to testify about text messages Ravi sent her regarding Tyler Clementi. Brian Thompson reports.

Mystery Man Testifies in Rutgers Webcam Trial

The man seen in a webcam liaison with a Rutgers University student testified Friday in the trial of the student's roommate, who is accused of spying on the two men during intimate moments. New Jersey reporter Brian Thompson reports.
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A former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man said someone at Rutgers was planning a "viewing party" with beer and rum to watch the dorm room liaison, a high school friend testified Monday.

 

The revelation came in testimony from Michelle Huang, a Cornell University student who says Dharun Ravi told her about it in a text message on Sept. 21, 2010.

 

Ravi, 20, is on trial for 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and several charges accusing him of trying to cover his tracks. Bias intimidation is a hate crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

 

The roommate, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010.

 

Prosecutors are trying to prove that Ravi intentionally tried to humiliate Clementi. Huang testified that Ravi urged her to video chat him so she could see the webcam footage.

 

"Do it for real," Ravi wrote in a text that was shown to jurors. "I have it pointed at his bed."

 

People were planning a "viewing party with a bottle of Bacardi and beer" to watch the webstream that night, Huang said. It was the first mention of a planned party in the trial, which had its seventh day of testimony on Monday.

 

Huang later testified that after Clementi had killed himself, Ravi texted her that the talk of a viewing party was a joke.

 

Witnesses have said the webcam wasn't working that night.

 

But Douglas Rager, a former university police detective, testified later Monday that when he went to inspect the dorm room on Sept. 23, he noticed that Ravi's webcam was "angled directly at Tyler's bed."

 

Ravi isn't charged in Clementi's death, and the judge has been cautious about how the suicide would come into the trial.

 

Prosecutors are precluded from linking the spying allegations to the suicide. Defense lawyers cannot make the case that Clementi killed himself for other reasons.

 

When prospective jurors were brought into the courtroom last month for the first time, the judge told them that it was the case involving Clementi and that Clementi had killed himself.

 

The issue came up Monday when Huang testified about hearing from Ravi that his roommate had committed suicide. The university sent counselors to his room and suggested he take several days off, he said, describing Rutgers officials in a text as "mad helpful."

 

After that testimony, which emerged during cross-examination by Ravi's lawyer, Middlesex County First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure told the judge that she might recall some earlier witnesses to ask them about conversations with Ravi about the suicide.

 

Judge Glenn Berman said he had allowed the questioning of Huang to continue because jurors might not have understood the texts without that context.

 

But he was apprehensive about delving further into the death because Ravi isn't charged with it.

 

"My preference is we don't talk about it," he said.

 

Before Monday, it had mostly come up in passing.

 

Tuesday's testimony was expected to start with a Rutgers University computer system administrator.

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