July 25, 2011 / 5:00 PM / in 6 years

Defense: Rutgers roommate never bullied gay man before suicide

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey (Reuters) - Lawyers for a student accused of secretly webcasting the sexual tryst of his gay roommate sought evidence on Monday to bolster their claim he never bullied the roommate, who committed suicide.

Instead, the defense team requested evidence it said will show Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi’s troubled state of mind before he leaped to his death off the George Washington Bridge in September 2010.

While charged with bullying, Dharun Ravi, 19, is not charged in the death of Clementi, 18, who killed himself after learning of the online video stream of his homosexual encounter.

Ravi remained silent during a court appearance on Monday as his lawyer, Steven Altman, asked for evidence not presented to the grand jury that indicted Ravi on 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and evidence tampering.

”There was no bias, no intimidation and there was no bullying done,“ Altman said. ”Nor was there any bullying intended or bias intended.

Among the items of evidence sought are files from Clementi’s computer, a handwritten note found after his death and the identity of the man involved in the tryst.

“We think we have a right to have him identified because we certainly would like to talk to him,” Altman said after exiting the courtroom.

The defense plans to use the evidence to argue the charges should be dismissed.

Clementi’s parents were in court for the hearing but declined to speak with reporters afterward.


Prosecutors say Ravi, of Plainsboro, New Jersey, set up the filming of Clementi’s encounter with another man and advertised the live video stream on Twitter.

He was accused of staging a cover-up by deleting the Twitter post and replacing it with another intended to mislead investigators, as well as asking witnesses not to testify against him.

Clementi’s death received wide attention. Such prominent figures as President Barack Obama and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres spoke out against bullying, and school systems and rights groups promoted programs to help prevent harassment of gay students.

Objecting to the defense requests, prosecutor Julia McClure said three documents from Clementi’s computer hard drive, which police recovered from his dorm room, were created before his death and weren’t relevant to the case.

Ravi’s other attorney, Philip Nettl, told Reuters the defense was not aware of what is in those documents. He said the prosecution turned over a copy of the hard drive to the defense but withheld the documents, which would shed additional light on their claims Ravi is not guilty of the charges.

“The documents will shed light on the state of mind of (Tyler Clementi)” Nettl said.

The police report also said a handwritten note was found in Clementi’s dorm room after his death but the defense has yet to see a copy of it.

“We don’t know what’s in it,” Altman said. “If you’re a lawyer, certainly you would want that.”

Another student implicated in the case, Molly Wei, 19, has agreed to testify against Ravi as part of a plea deal. She has applied for a pretrial intervention program that could mean the two counts of invasion of privacy against her are dropped.

In exchange for having the charges dismissed, Wei must testify against Ravi, complete 300 hours of community service, undergo counseling on cyberbullying and take classes on dealing with alternative lifestyles.

Judge Glenn Berman set an August 10 deadline for Ravi’s team to file a motion to have his charges dropped. Ravi is due in court again on September 9.

Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton

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