The trial of Dharun Ravi, who had Tweeted about seeing his Rutgers University roommate Tyler Clementi be intimate with another man, began today with jury selection, ABC News reported.
Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge and died in September 2010. After the suicide, news broke that Ravi had secretly recorded Clementi kissing a man with a webcam. Ravi and then publicly Tweeted about it. The news sparked outrage among cyberbullying and gay rights activists. But some transcripts suggest that Ravi was not as homophobic as previously thought, which could hurt the prosecution's case.
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"The charges themselves are very difficult to prove," former New Jersey prosecutor Robert Honecker told ABC. Ravi, 19, is on trial for invasion of privacy, witness tampering, hindering prosecution and bias intimidation. He could end up in prison for up to 10 years if a jury finds that he was trying to intimidate Clementi "because of his sexual preference," ABC said. As a result, the jury "will be asked to go inside Ravi's mind" to determine whether he is homophobic. The jury will do so by reading his and Clementi's old emails, text messages and instant messages.
In some text messages, Ravi complained about his roommate being gay. But in other messages to friends, Ravi said he didn't care about Clementi's sexuality. On the night of Clementi's death, Ravi sent him an apologetic text message: "I've known you were gay and I have no problem with it." Ravi told police that he thought Clementi was still alive when he sent him the apology, according to a lengthy New Yorker profile of the case.
The troubles began between the two roommates after Clementi asked to have the room to himself one night. Ravi then secretly set up his webcam to record him, the New York Times reported. Afterward, Ravi Tweeted that he saw his roommate making out "with a dude." But when Clementi discovered the invasion, he played down the incident in an instant message to a friend, the Times said.
On another night that Clementi asked for the room, Ravi invited friends to a "viewing party." Clementi saw the Twitter message and unplugged Ravi's computer that night.