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  CLEMENTI TRIAL

Dharun Ravi Text To Tyler Clementi: I’m Okay With You Being Gay

The trial of Dharun Ravi continued today with defense attorney Steven Altman introducing into evidence a text message from September 22 which that seemed to suggest Ravi didn’t have a problem with Clementi’s sexuality.

The text read:

“I’ve known you were gay and I have no problem with it… In fact, one of my closest friends is gay and I have a very open relationship. I just suspected you were shy and never broached it as a topic. I don’t want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding, it’s adding to my guilt. You have a right to move if you wish but I don’t want you to feel pressured to without fully understanding the situation.”

But it’s possible the text was a just a ruse by Ravi, who was at least aware Clementi had contacted Rutgers about the webcam situation, if not of his roommate’s suicidal mindset.

Clementi took his own life the same day, so there’s no way of knowing if he read the message.

Earlier, a computer forensics expert testified that dozens of messages were deleted from Ravi’s phone, dating from Sept 18 to 23, the day after Clementi’s suicide. That includes messages to high-school friends Michelle Huang and Molly Wei, the latter of whom lived across the hall in the same Rutgers dorm.

Officials at Verizon still had copies of the texts, one of which was from Ravi to friend and dorm mate Alissa Agarwal: “Roommate asked for the room. I went into Molly [wei]‘s room and turned on my webcam I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

Wei was charged with invasion of privacy but was granted immunity in return for cooperating with prosecutors and entering an intervention program.

By:           Dan Avery
On:           Mar 7, 2012
Tagged: , , ,

  • 26 Comments
    • Drew
      Drew

      This case should have never left a grand jury. We’ll never know why Tyler killed himself and Tyler should have stayed alive and sued both Ravi and Rutgers.

      Mar 7, 2012 at 8:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • pedro
      pedro

      My personal opinion has always been that Ravi is a repressed homosexual…the whole thing is a tragedy…I actually feel sympathy for the guy. I think Clementi had more issues…but what Ravi did was wrong. I don’t think his life should be destroyed for it however, he did not kill Clementi.

      Mar 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Geno
      Geno

      This dude is a creep!

      Mar 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      Queerty claimed, “Clementi took his own life the same day, so there’s no way of knowing if he read the message.”

      This is not necessarily true. If Clementi’s phone was recovered, it might contain a record of which messages were read (to a phone, ‘read’ means that someone opened the message although obviously you can’t tell if the person actually looked at it). Even if
      something is known, you might not hear about it – the trial is not about the suicide, so releasing those texts would simply further invade Clementi’s privacy and they won’t do that without a compelling reason.

      Mar 7, 2012 at 8:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Oh, ok.
      Oh, ok.

      This “case” has gotten really silly.

      Hit him with invasion of privacy and whatever else and move on already. There is no reason to keep dragging this out.

      We know what he did do, he recorded someone without their consent which is a crime. He had others watch it, bam another crime.

      What more needs to be said? Why delve into the childishness of their silly text and Twitter accounts? It’s already been proven that he harassed this kid and infringed upon his rights.

      I personally do not believe his life should be ruined behind it, but he should be held to the full extent of the law for what we know he did do which was invade the privacy of another student. Maybe if his dumb ass focused on his studies instead of eerily spying on his roommate he’d have a future ahead of him.

      Mar 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • David
      David

      I don’t think that Ravi is somehow a repressed or closeted gay man or anything but heterosexual. I read the news article about him and he sounds like your average straight kid who doesn’t know anything at all about what it means for someone to be LGBT. Clementi clearly had major issues not just with being depressed and suicidal but socially as well. He couldn’t even tell Ravi that he was gay or that he knew Ravi knew he was gay, and that Tyler would sometimes be using their dorm room to have sex with his hook ups or tricks. I remember when this story first hit the media I thought as many did that Clementi was closeted and not out, but then when I read an article about Clementi I learned that he had been out to his friends and family for awhile.

      Mar 7, 2012 at 9:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ronbo
      Ronbo

      “Creep” is kind. I hope he feels remorse for what he caused. He isn’t a killer; just a cultural landmark of homophobia. If he was secure, homo/hetro wouldn’t matter. Hope his career as prison bitch is as “comfortable” as his kindness to Clementi was sincere.

      Oh wait, if convicted he will get probation and time on CNN or FOX as a contributer.

      Mar 7, 2012 at 9:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Marie
      Marie

      Ronbo-There’s an interesting debate about Obama and LGBT rights here: http://www.queerty.com/is-it-smart-or-dangerous-for-gays-to-spite-vote-in-the-republican-primaries-20120307/

      Mar 7, 2012 at 9:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 5 · Oh, ok. wrote, “We know what he did do, he recorded someone without their consent which is a crime. He had others watch it, bam another crime.”

      1. He didn’t record anything – the word “record” implies making a permanent copy and it seems no such copy was found. If you’ve found an article stating otherwise, please post a link.

      2. He watched a web cam in his room for a few seconds and shut it off when he saw his roommate kissing.

      3. His friend Molly apparently turned on the web cam later to show some friends. That was her crime – she obviously knew in advance that some sort of sexual activity would be going on – but Ravi didn’t seem to be involved in that one.

      4. Ravi set up the web cam again on a different day and tested it to make sure everything was working, but his roommate shut it off before anything at all sexual went on. He told people about it but so far there is no evidence that anyone even tried to view it.

      5. The text messages were being discussed in court as evidence for a bias charge. The D.A. claims they show bias and the defense claims that the defendant was joking, citing witnesses and other text messages that suggest he was not particularly prejudiced against gays per se.

      The jury will have to sort it all out. He might end up convicted of something, but at this point it is guess. He might be found “not guilty” on the basis of the “reasonable doubt” standard (i.e., the prosecutor didn’t prove his case adequately).

      Mar 7, 2012 at 9:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Aric
      Aric

      “In fact, one of my closest friends is gay and I have a very open relationship.”

      ^^^ I am not here for this

      Mar 7, 2012 at 10:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Once again...
      Once again...

      Anybody claiming that Ravi’s actions aren’t criminal and shouldn’t be prosecuted, please email me your name and address. I’ll be by to install cameras in your intimate spaces and randomly check in on your personal behavior… as well as share the links on Twitter.

      Since it’s obviously not criminal behavior, as you argue, you should be okay with this.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 12:16 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 11 · Once again… wrote, “Anybody claiming that Ravi’s actions aren’t criminal and shouldn’t be prosecuted, please email me your name and address.”

      Maybe Drew in No 1 claimed there was nothing criminal. I think the question is going to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I’d suggest reading http://www.samsachs.com/crimlaws/2c_14-9.php for a quote of the relevant New Jersey laws. Be sure to note the difference between a fourth degree crime and a third degree crime – for a fourth degree crime someone convicted can get up to 18 months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. The penalties for a third degree crime are much worse.

      For section 2C:14-9 (the “invasion of privacy” law, it is a fourth degree crime “if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, and under circumstances in which a reasonable person would know that another may expose intimate parts or may engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact, he observes another person without that person’s consent and under circumstances in which a reasonable person would not expect to be observed.” For a third degree crime, you basically have to record or reproduce images or a video stream.

      According to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/dharun-ravi-tyler-clementi-timeline_n_1297056.html on Sept 19, Ravi went to his room at 9 PM, talked to his roommate, found out that the roommate wanted the room for the entire night (did they mean “evening”?), and turned on the web cam at 9:13 PM. The question is going to be whether a reasonable person would expect someone to have his pants down or engaged in sexual contact no more than 13 minutes later. Ravi can also claim that his roommate never undressed until much later at night. The jury is going to have to make a judgment call on what is reasonable.

      The other problem is that his invitations for others to look were for the Sept 21 viewing, but Clementi had apparently indicated in a message to a friend that he had turned off the power to the computer. It’s a third degree crime to disclose the video feed, where “disclose” includes merely advertising it, but with the power off, there is no “it” there to disclose – Ravi disclosed a non-existent video. That might get him off of a 3rd degree charge.

      A lot can depend on what Ravi was really charged with. If it is section 2C:14-9 he has some reasonable arguments in his defense, some “technicalities” that might or might not get him off. If there is a law regarding attempted viewings that failed, someone should cite that and make sure it is something Ravi was in fact charged with.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 2:26 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • lloyd
      lloyd

      Given the fact that this message was written at the same time that Ravi was deleting incriminating messages (and also minutes after Clementi had posted on his Facebook page that he was jumping off the bridge), one should approach it skeptically. We know that both roommates monitored each other’s postings. Moreover, in another text made around the same time, Ravi recounted the chain of events regarding the spying with a lot of lies (that he “accidentally” viewed Clementi, that he turned away and off the webcam at the time of the second attempted viewing). Clementi had viewed Ravi’s tweets, of course, and knew that these statements were false; but Ravi knew they would be good corroborating evidence in an investigation. There seemed to be a sneaky slyness in everything Ravi did.

      Oh, the line, one of my best friends is gay! How many times haven’t we heard that one before? But then the bit about the “very open relationship” is too much. If the friendship were that open, why did Ravi find it necessary to publicize and snicker about his roommate’s sexuality. The guy is a weasel.

      By the way, one commenter talked about Clementi being out “for a while.” Actually, out for about a month to his parents.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 7:10 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • GreatGatsby2011
      GreatGatsby2011

      @Drew: Please explain your reasoning as to why this case should not have been brought to trial. Even based soley on the information that has been presented by the media, there was plenty of evidence for the grand jury to approve an indictment. In case you were unaware, it requires less evidence for an indictment than a conviction.

      And if, as the juxtaposition of your two sentences implies, you believe that Ravi is being held legally responsible for Clementi’s death, let me assure you that the charges being brought against Ravi are soley regarding Ravi’s alleged violation of Clementi’s privacy and the potential motivation behind the the alleged violation (which, if proven, would enhance the penalty of the conviction). He is in no way being charged with Clementi’s death.

      Does the evidence being presented in court prove beyond a resonable doubt that he committed the crimes he’s being charged with? I don’t know, that’s up to a jury of his peers to decide. But was there enough evidence for an indictment? Based on the evidence I have seen, I would say yes and apparently a judge and grand jury agree with me.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 10:06 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • the crustybastard
      the crustybastard

      @GreatGatsby2011:

      He won’t explain why. He just keeps spamming every one of these threads with his “it shouldn’t have gotten out of the grand jury” nonsense.

      I imagine it’s something he heard on TV and he thinks repeating it makes him sound smart.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 10:48 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 13 · lloyd asked, “Oh, the line, one of my best friends is gay! How many times haven’t we heard that one before? But then the bit about the “very open relationship” is too much. If the friendship were that open, why did Ravi find it necessary to publicize and snicker about his roommate’s sexuality.”

      You might hear the “official” (and after the fact) explanation for that during the defense’s part of the trial. My guess: they’ll claim the snickering was the nervous reaction of an 18 year old away from home for the first time and suddenly finding himself with a sexually active roommate after previously living a sheltered life.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 2:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • evanb
      evanb

      In the recent New Yorker piece on this case, it was pretty clear that the “I have no problem with you’re being gay” text was composed and sent AFTER Ravi was aware that Tyler was missing and had possibly committed suicide. That would make it pretty obviously a clumsy effort to distance himself from the situation and provide “evidence” that he was not a Bad Guy. This supposition is also supported by the circumstantial evidence of Ravi’s actions immediately after being informed of Tyler’s suicide, which included contacting his friend Wei to collaborate on a common storyline, deleting emails and texts, and generally behaving in an odd manner. There is clearly a connection between Ravi’s actions and Tyler’s suicide; the question is whether that connection is criminal in nature, or just morally abhorrent.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 2:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kostas
      Kostas

      Is Ravi gay? Usually when school starts, roommates try to get along.This guy seems to have gone to extraordinary lengths to be a real asshole to Tyler, behind his back, and to round up others against Tyler.Ravi is too immature for college.I think that his conduct was criminal, and meant to be hurtful and embarrassing and bullying to Tyler.Notjing like being at a new school, gay, walking into a room and wondering why everyone is laughing or talking about. Ravi was a cyber sneak.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Steve
      Steve

      B, I don’t know if you are a lawyer or just pretend to be one. In either event, I’d strongly advise that you pursue another profession, or at least stay away from trial law. You don’t know the first thing about how to analyze a case. You seem to believe that because the defendant’s attorneys can articulate some defense, that means the prosecution’s case is weak or vulnerable. You fail to grasp that every defense lawyer is able to cobble together some kind of defense, no matter what the case. If we used your analytical approach, we would expect near 100% acquittals or hung juries.

      The evidence on the invasion of privacy here is overwhelming and actually includes a videotaped admission by the defendant himself that he invaded Clementi’s privacy. I don’t know how much stronger it can get than that. That you would consider this a close call only indicts your own sense of judgment and, if you are a licensed attorney, your competence. The hate crimes element is more difficult, but there is ample evidence for a jury to render a guilty plea.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shannon1981
      Shannon1981

      That text was a cover up, nothing more. Use it as more evidence of tampering, along with the deleted tweets and whatnot.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 6:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chris
      Chris

      “In the recent New Yorker piece on this case, it was pretty clear that the “I have no problem with you’re being gay” text was composed and sent AFTER Ravi was aware that Tyler was missing and had possibly committed suicide.”

      Absolutely, positively not true. The article did not say for sure whether the text had been sent before or after Ravi knew that Tyler had committed suicide. No one can say this for sure, because nobody but Ravi knows when he first heard the news.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 19 · Steve made a fool of himself by saying, “B, I don’t know if you are a lawyer or just pretend to be one. In either event, I’d strongly advise that you pursue another profession, …” This garbage is another case of shooting the messenger.

      I’ll refer you to http://abcnews.go.com/US/rutgers-trial-prosecution-make-case-dharun-ravi/story?id=15877699 (which I just found a few minutes ago): ‘”You can expect Altman to portray Ravi as a young man only three weeks into his college career who was doing dumb things that many college students do,” Fahy said. “He wants the jury to see a kid who did not understand the consequences of what he did and the pain he may have caused, that there never was criminal intent of any kind.”‘ Basically, ABC’s analysis is similar to mine. BTW, this link also states, “The state has not made an overwhelming argument that there was intimidation, and further, they produced little evidence that Ravi was motivated by homophobia. In fact, defense attorney Altman has elicited testimony from several witnesses, saying Ravi is not a homophobe.”

      Your claim, “The evidence on the invasion of privacy here is overwhelming and actually includes a videotaped admission by the defendant himself that he invaded Clementi’s privacy,” is easily countered: the defense will point out that Ravi was using “invasion of privacy” in a colloquial sense, not in a legal sense as he had no understanding of the precise wording of the statutes.

      There’s evidence that he and Molly Wei looked at a video for a few seconds. Ravi claims he turned the cam off the second time. He might claim he had a friend check it to see if it was still on and when he found he had, he shut it off. Clementi also apparently shut off the computer completely, but did not do any testing to see if the video feed was operating, at least none that was reported. Both could have happened – they are not mutually exclusive events.

      And aside from all that, the defense is just starting to present its case.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 8:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • GreatGatsby2011
      GreatGatsby2011

      @B: If the defense goes that route, they’ll have to tread carefully (and I’m sure they will) because the same traits that are interpreted as innocence in a child (failure to comprehend of the consequences of his action or that his actions could cause pain in others) could be interpreted as sociopathic tendencies in an adult. It should be interesting to see how they present the argument.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 9:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      Re No 23. One thing his lawyer can try is to point out Ravi’s Indian ethnic background, which would tend to discourage public displays of affection. Read http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7871304.stm for an example – a married couple who were arrested in or near Delhi for “kissing near a railway station.” If they can show that, the defense might argue that Ravi was simply blustering in his text messages to hide a personal discomfort with sexual activity in his room, and not showing a hatred of gays.

      Anyway, we’ll know for sure in about a week.

      Mar 8, 2012 at 11:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Pete
      Pete

      I think Ravi is gay, a creep, and was doing the typical homophobe schtick by bashing a gay so that people do not figure out that he himself is gay. He deserves at least a few years jail time to ponder his actions.
      As to #24 about Ravi’s Indian background, he is a thoroughly aculturated American, here since a small baby.New jersey is not a back woods place. His use of all the social media does not indicate some sheltered kid. India has plenty of sex – otherwise how did they get more than a billion people? I am sure he knows where babies come from, and that he is fully familiar with gays in American life.

      Mar 9, 2012 at 9:57 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 25 · Pete wrote, “As to #24 about Ravi’s Indian background, he is a thoroughly aculturated American, here since a small baby.New jersey is not a back woods place. His use of all the social media does not indicate some sheltered kid. India has plenty of sex – otherwise how did they get more than a billion people?”

      India may have plenty of sex, but here are taboos against even kissing in public as the link I provided indicates. although that is slowly changing. Also, while Ravi grew up here, his parents did not (if born in the U.S., Ravi could not be deported) and he would have been exposed to Indian cultural values at home and U.S. cultural values among his peers. He could plausibly have picked up some of his parents’ likely discomfort with public displays of affection and tried to hide that by joking about it (he claimed he joked about things he was uncomfortable with, although he also has an incentive to say that after the fact).

      Keep in mind that the discussion was about what tactics his defense could use, and merely raising reasonable doubt is enough for an acquittal.

      The defense can also raise doubt about the fourth degree invasion of privacy charge. The charge involved a law that made invasion of privacy a crime “if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, and under circumstances in which a reasonable person would know that another may expose intimate parts or may engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact, he observes another person without that person’s consent and under circumstances in which a reasonable person would not expect to be observed.” It seems Ravi returned to his room on Sept 19 at 9 PM, picked up some stuff, was going to take a shower, and was going to stay elsewhere. The web cam viewing occurred at 9:13 PM. If you allow 5 minutes to discuss the situation and gather up his stuff, that leaves 7 minutes before the viewing. In view of the shower, it would be reasonable to expect that Ravi’s roommate and friend would wait 10 minutes or more after Ravi left before starting any sort of sexual activity just in case Ravi returned from his shower, knocked on the door, and asked to pick up a book or something that he needed and forgot to take initially. The defense could use that as an indication that Ravi would have reasonably expected to not see any sort of sexual activity at the point in time when he and/or his friend activated the cam. Whether the jury would accept that argument, of course, is currently unknown.

      Whatever they do, you can expect that the defense will try to chip away at the invasion of privacy charges, including the fourth degree one. While they might use a different argument than the example above, it’s not like it is hopeless for them: they can argue that there was an invasion of privacy, but not a criminal one given the specific law that Ravi is accused of breaking, and there is factual evidence that they can use to support that claim.

      Mar 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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