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Ex-Rutgers student admits in video to violating roommate's privacy

At least one more detective is expected to be called to testify in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi admits in a recorded police interview shown to jurors Wednesday that he violated roommate Tyler Celmenti's privacy by seeing him in an intimate moment with another man.

"Yes," Ravi answered police when asked about privacy, but he said he meant no harm: "I didn't realize it was something so private," he said. "It was my room, too."

The recorded interview was the first time jurors have heard Ravi's voice in his trial, which so far has lasted nine days. Ravi faces 15 criminal charges, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and tampering with evidence and a witness.

Authorities say he used his webcam to spy on Clementi on Sept. 19, 2010, and tried to do it again two days later when Clementi asked to have the room privately again. On Sept. 22, Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

The tragedy turned Clementi into a symbol of the difficulties confronting young gays.

Now, Ravi is facing up to 10 years in prison if he's convicted of the most serious charges.

Jurors have heard the story from other college students, a dorm resident assistant and police who inspected the computers and cellphones of the two roommates and other students.

On Wednesday, they got an account from Ravi himself. The interview with authorities ended abruptly after the investigators told Ravi, now 20, that his father wanted him to have a lawyer.

In the nearly hour-long video, Ravi spoke quickly but was mostly composed, looking at the detective who questioned him even as he was accused repeatedly of lying and told that he might be charged with a crime.

He said he didn't understand when Clementi first told him he was having a friend over that he meant he wanted privacy in the room.

He said the guest - a man who testified earlier in the trial and was identified only by the initials M.B. - gave him a "bad vibe" and didn't acknowledge Ravi when he said hello.

He said he viewed the room using his webcam to see what was going on and turned if off after a few seconds, once he realized what the men were doing. He said he didn't explicitly see that they were kissing but he could tell that's what they were doing.

"You took that private information and you shared it with the public," said Michael Daniewicz, an investigator with the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, "is that fair to say?"

"That's fair to say," Ravi replied.

Daniewicz grilled Ravi on a Twitter message he sent on Sept. 21: "Anyone with iChat," he said, "I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again."

That tweet is a key part of the prosecution's case that Ravi sought to humiliate his gay roommate and wanted others to watch a webcast of his private liaison with another man.

Ravi said in the interview that he did not really want friends to try to watch the webcast that night.

"I said that sarcastically, first of all," he said. "And I turned off my computer, I put it to sleep."

The detective kept returning to the Twitter post. A copy of it was found saved on Clementi's computer, jurors were told Tuesday by another investigator. And in the two days before Clementi killed himself, a detective said, he had checked Ravi's Twitter page 38 times.

In the interview, the detective asked Ravi if he knew Clementi had seen it. Ravi said he hadn't, but explained that he deleted the tweet all the same after learning from a dorm resident assistant that Clementi believed Ravi was trying to "broadcast" it.

"I don't want him to think I was spying on him," he said. "I don't know who would want to see that."

Two friends have testified they helped Ravi double-check the angle of the webcam to make sure it was angled at Clementi's bed, a few hours before Clementi and his guest used the room, the Newark Star-Ledger reported.

This article includes reporting by The Associated Press.