Ex-defendant emotional on stand in NJ webcam trial
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.—The first time she met with police, Molly Wei realized that briefly viewing a live web stream of a dorm mate kissing another man was a serious problem, the former Rutgers University student testified Tuesday in the trial of a classmate.
By the time her meeting with investigators was over, she was so rattled that she had her parents take her to their family home in Princeton Junction, a half-hour away.
"At the end of the conversation, the police officers told me that Tyler was missing and that he had possibly committed suicide," she said, showing emotion that she hadn't when she testified Monday. "I was overwhelmed, very sad, and I felt very bad if anything had happened."
It would get worse.
Wei, 19, finished her testimony Tuesday in the hate-crime trial of Dharun Ravi, who is accused of using his webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi. It turned out that by the time Wei met with police, on Sept. 23, 2010, Clementi had jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.
Ravi, 20, faces 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and several counts that accuse him of trying to cover his tracks. He is not charged in Clementi's death.
Wei was initially charged too, but she entered a pretrial intervention program last year that can keep her record clean. One condition of the program is truthful testimony in Ravi's criminal case.
She said she called Rutgers police a few days later after learning about a Twitter message Ravi posted on Sept. 21, when Clementi requested privacy in the room again. "Anyone with iChat," he posted, "I dare you to videochat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again."
By the time she learned about that, days later, she said, "I knew that what happened was more serious than I thought."
That time, when she went into the police station, she was charged with invasion of privacy.
She said she left Rutgers that night and never returned as a student.
Ravi's Sept. 21 tweet was a major topic Tuesday during the trial's third day of testimony.
A second student, Alissa Agarwal, told jurors she remembered Ravi "hyping up" that message in a conversation, then going back to her room and showing her how she could video-chat with him.
Agarwal said they sat together in her dorm room desk chair as he turned his camera on in his own room -- then empty -- for a few seconds.
"I don't remember why we turned it on," she said. "I don't remember why we turned it off."
Defense lawyer Steven Altman tried to cast doubt on whether Ravi told Agarwal and others about his tweet and to tune in.
There's no indication that anyone saw a web stream of Clementi and his guest that night. Documents included in pre-trial motions suggest Ravi's computer was unplugged at the time Clementi had company.
Altman also questioned Agarwal about a series of text messages she exchanged -- many of them flirty, such as her saying, "I missed your absurdness yesterday." One string of texts had messages between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Agarwal seemed sheepish during some of those exchanges, at one point saying: "This is a stupid conversation we're having. I don't see how this is relevant."
Later, Judge Glenn Berman raised a similar concern, asking Altman what point he was trying to make.
Altman responded: "It had nothing to do with Tyler."
In other words, the man accused of telling others to spy on his roommate was discussing everything except his roommate.
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