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Mystery man in Rutgers webcam tryst testifies in spy trial of Tyler Clementi's roommate

  • Dharun Ravi on trial

    Feb. 28: Dharun Ravi listens to testimony during his trial at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick, N.J. Ravi is accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, in an intimate encounter with another man. Days later Clementi committed suicide. (AP)

  • Tyler Clementi file photo

    This undated file photograph provided by Joseph and Jane Clementi shows their son Tyler Clementi. (AP)

A man who witnesses say was secretly watched via webcam while kissing a Rutgers University student who later committed suicide took the stand Friday, telling jurors he noticed the webcam while the two were being intimate.

"I had just glanced over my shoulder and I noticed there was a webcam that was faced toward the direction of the bed," said the man, identified only by the initials M.B. "Just being in a compromising position and seeing a camera lens -- it just stuck out to me."

The man testified that he had met Tyler Clementi in August 2010 through a social networking site for gay men. They chatted online initially, he said, and their first in-person meeting was in Clementi's dorm room on Sept. 16 -- three days before the alleged spying. Clementi, of Ridgewood, N.J., killed himself days later by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

Prosecutors claim Clementi's former roommate, Dharun Ravi, secretly activated a webcam inside his room and watched Clementi kissing another man. He then posted what he had seen on Twitter and encouraged his followers on the social network site to watch again a few days later, according to prosecutors. 

Ravi faces 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. His attorney has said his actions may have been "stupid," but they were not "hateful" or criminal, the Star Ledger reported.

The identity of M.B. has not been made public because he is considered a victim of an alleged sex crime. The judge did not allow photographs of M.B. to be taken in the courthouse, barred any audio or video of him to be taken and said that he would be identified in court only by his initials. 

Jurors were given his whole name to make sure none knew him.

On Friday, the trim young man appeared in court in a button-down shirt, and did not match the description of the overweight "sketchy" or "homeless"-looking man that students had reported seeing visit Clementi. His hair was closely cropped and he didn't have the goatee that some described seeing him have.

Because of the secrecy surrounding the man's identity, there was an unusually large media contingent packed into the Middlesex County Courthouse for what was already a high-profile trial.

But in a little more than 30 minutes of direct-examination, not much light was shed on who he is.

He said he lived about a 20-minute drive from Clementi's dorm and was starting a new job on Sept. 20, 2010.

He testified that he met Clementi in his dorm room three times. The first was on Sept. 16, when he said Ravi was not expected home until the middle of the night.

The second was Sept. 19, the date of the alleged spying -- and the time he said he noticed the webcam.

He said he and Clementi were naked and had sex that night. People who saw webcam images of his encounter with Clementi have testified that they saw no more than a few seconds of video and that the men were not seen doing anything more graphic than kissing. At one point, some said, their shirts were off, but their pants were on.

The man told jurors there were about five students looking at him as he left the building on Sept. 19.

"Had they been in the street or somewhere other than this building I would have asked them why they were looking at me," he said. He called their actions "unsettling."

The third time he met Clementi was two days later, when Ravi is charged with attempted invasion of privacy. There's been testimony that the webcam feed did not work that night. According to court papers filed previously, it was unplugged.

M.B. testified that he heard comments from the courtyard outside the dorm that night that bothered him. But he was not allowed to say what it was.

He testified that he wanted to see Clementi again. "As far as whether I was going to return to that building to see him, I felt a little uneasy about it," he said.

Much of the testimony so far has come from college students. Several said Ravi told them that he'd used a webcam to see what was happening in the room he shared with Clementi on Sept. 19 and that he set up the camera again Sept. 21.
But none said that he had general malice toward gays.

On Thursday, jurors heard testimony from a Rutgers police officer who said that he knocked on the door of a dorm room shortly before 10 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2010, for a well-being check on Clementi.

Officer Krzysztof Kowalczyk testified the other freshman who lived in the cramped room answered and said that when he'd last seen Clementi five hours earlier, everything was normal.

Prosecutors appear to be using Thursday's testimony from Officer Krzysztof Kowalczyk, which lasted less than 45 minutes, to lay groundwork for the case there was a cover-up -- a major theme during the fifth day testimony in the trial.

The jury hasn't yet heard a timeline that is laid out in legal filings but which might help the prosecution's case.

According to those documents, Clementi posted to Facebook at 8:42 p.m.: "Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry." After that, he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

And Ravi sent Clementi long text messages at 8:46 p.m. and then 10 minutes later describing the use of his webcam as "a petty misunderstanding."

Kowalczyk said Ravi didn't mention anything about that -- just that he saw Clementi at about 4:30 p.m. when his roommate finished the day's classes and dropped off his book bag in the room.

The officer, who didn't say what led to his being dispatched to the dorm room at 9:46 p.m., said Ravi did volunteer one other piece of information: "He had stated that an individual had stayed in the dorm room with Tyler a couple days prior," Kowalczyk said.

Prosecutor Julia McClure asked if Ravi mentioned that the guest came back the night before the officer came to the door. He hadn't, Kowalczyk said. Authorities say Ravi used a webcam to spy on the man's first visit and attempted to do so again on the second. Witnesses have said only seconds of the streaming video was viewed and that it included nothing more graphic than two shirtless men kissing.

Kowalczyk's testimony suggested that Ravi didn't bring up another matter: A dorm resident assistant had testified that he spoke with Ravi earlier on Sept. 22 on Clementi's request to change rooms.

The testimony from the officer was the second instance Thursday in which prosecutors seemed to be building a cover-up case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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