Crime | Law - Gay, LGBT | New Jersey | Tyler Clementi

Tyler Clementi's Roommate Dharun Ravi Wasn't Homophobic, Claim Witnesses

DahrunRaviOpening remarks were made yesterday in the criminal trial of Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers freshman whose webcamming of roommate Tyler Clementi's gay hookup may have led to Clementi's suicide. One of the Rutgers sudents who watched the illicit webcast, Cassandra Cicco, was called to the stand by the prosecution, but her remarks may have been most helpful to Ravi's defense.

Cicco was the roommate of Molly Wei, a new friend Ravi had made in his first weeks at Rutgers, and Cicco was in her bedroom when Ravi was ejected from his own room by Clementi. Ravi joined Cicco and Wei in their dorm, where Ravi and Wei viewed images from Ravi's webcam for "a few seconds." The images showed Clementi and his partner clothed, "making out" on the bed.

The prosecution in the trial will seek to prove that Dahrun Ravi meant to ridicule Clementi for being gay, but Cicco and other witnesses insist that's not the case. From ABC:

Cicco said that she never heard Ravi disparage his roommate for being gay or having a gay relationship before or after his Webcam spying. Cicco was in the room when Molly Wei, her roommate, and Ravi decided to watch the webcam.

... Like Cicco, other witnesses testified today that Ravi was not homophobic and that he and other students did not talk much about the event after it happened.

"It's scandalous because the guy (with Clementi) was older, not because it was a guy," said Alvin Artha, a friend of Ravi's from the dormitory. "He was older, not a Rutger's student. That's why Dahrun was acting the way he was."

Cicco also noted the older appearance of the man, known only as M.B. in court documents, who was with Clementi.


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  1. Not at all pleased with this testimony but it is to be expected. We have yet to hear from the mysterious partner. BIG objection to the statement that Tyler "ejected" Ravi from the room. No such ejection took place but a request that Ravi allow Tyler room privacy with his date. Standard dorm protocol.

    Instead, Ravi saw it as an opportunity to invade his roommate's privacy by secretly turning on his webcam, then tweeting his friends and the world where to go online to view the public invasion and sat across the hallway himself watching. That was followed by another verbal and public tweeting broadcast or shaming of his roommate publicly about his homosexuality. It was that invasion, humiliation, discovery that led Tyler Clementi to find that his life was no longer worth living. Had he has such thoughts before? Who knows but we know that it was the criminal act invoked by Ravi that put him over the edge.

    Had it not happened there is EVERY reason to believe Tyler would be here with us today. That's the bottom line. Ravi's actions resulted in the death of Tyler Clementi.

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Feb 25, 2012 1:14:39 PM

  2. Reading the lengthy article on Slate (I think) it's really obvious that this is more complex than simply bullying or homophobia. He made some comments like "OMG! I think my roommate is gay", but he didn't show any overt hostility either.

    Spying on him was a bad idea obviously, but I don't see how it would necessarily lead Clementi to kill himself. He might not have waved around a rainbow flag, but he wasn't exactly in the closet either. People already knew he was gay.

    Posted by: Steve | Feb 25, 2012 1:28:06 PM

  3. @OS2Guy -- What you are saying may be true, but that recent New Yorker story raises serious doubts about the prevailing media narrative you summarize in your comment. There is a lot more complexity here. Thank goodness this is being sorted out in a courtroom, not by a lynch mob.

    Posted by: Dan | Feb 25, 2012 1:30:24 PM

  4. I think Dahrun was a stupid kid doing what stupid kids do. It's unfortunate that Clementi felt so threatened by the idea of being spied upon during an intimate moment that he chose to end his life but portraying this kid as some homophobic monster intent on destroying Clementi is ridiculous. He deserves punishment but lay off the hysteria.

    Posted by: D.R.H. | Feb 25, 2012 1:42:17 PM

  5. If it's not homophobia, why did he need to show the video to others? Why? Why was it necessary to film this poor kid having sex with a guy? For what purpose? I don't buy Ravi's claim that he wanted to find out if Tyler was gay, lame excuse. Does any gay styudent go around filming straight students having sex to find out of if they're really straight? this was a despicable thing to do. How would any of us have felt had we been in Tyler's shoes? It's very easy saying he didn't have to kill himself. How do we know none of those students hadn't tormented him? They're not necessarily telling the truth either.

    Posted by: Robert in NYC | Feb 25, 2012 1:44:33 PM

  6. Quite right Robert.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Feb 25, 2012 2:12:48 PM

  7. Well short of evidence showing that he was in fact being tormented endlessly by Ravi, which I'm thinking doesn't exist, I think the media making much to do about nothing. What Ravi did was wrong, clearly he's a douse-bag. But to say he is responsible for Clementi's death is stretching it a bit far. It sounds like the big homophone here was Clementi, not Ravi.

    If this was done to me, I would certainly be pissed off but I wouldn't kill myself, Tyler clearly had more serious long standing mental issues, something else was going on with that kid. Ravi should be punished in some way for what he did, invasion of privacy. But I do not believe this to be a hate crime and the media is making this something it's not.

    Now if evidence comes forward that proves Ravi was harassing and bullying Tyler for a long period of time, that would be a different story.

    Posted by: intristin | Feb 25, 2012 2:15:15 PM

  8. @INTRISTIN: Really? You know so much about Tyler that you can unequivocally say it didn't bother him enough to commit suicide? When I was a college freshman, I would have been devastated by what Ravi did. To be humiliated in front of the entire school, to know that you'd be taunted and teased about it for the next 4+ years, not knowing if it would taint your career prospects let alone your personal and family relationships forever. Even if Ravi wasn't a homophobe, (and I have no doubt he was), he was most certainly a bully. What he did was not fun or innocent or even cute. Tyler is not the one on trial here.

    Posted by: Brad | Feb 25, 2012 2:49:26 PM

  9. @Steve
    Which "people" already knew he was gay? Certainly not everyone. Just because a friend or a family member knows your secret, doesn't mean it's no longer a secret. And Ravi's actions clearly show that homosexuality is still an issue for some people.

    Posted by: Eugene | Feb 25, 2012 3:06:36 PM

  10. Intristin....well, the fact that Ravi deliberately posted the video for all to see could be construed as bullying. Stop being an apologist. There was NO excuse to broadcast any of it, absolutely NONE. It was cruel and very spiteful, in fact malicious. How do you know if that poor boy had mental issues? When I was a kid growing up in the late 50s, early 60s, I was often taunted in school punched because of who I am and often felt so low that I wanted to die. Thank goodness I had parents I could turn to and who supported me. Stop diminishing Ravi's claim that he's not homophobic. All bigots claim they're not homophobic when called on it and many use the transparent excuse that they have gay friends so it lets them off the hook as we often see with anti gay republicans. Even if Tyler had some issues, whatever his pain was it was so great he took his life. If Ravi hadn't filmed him having sex, he would probably be alive today. Ravi should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law even if it means jail time. It's disgusting what he did and not acceptable.

    Posted by: Robert in NYC | Feb 25, 2012 3:30:24 PM

  11. He wasn't very homophobic, but he did see Tyler as being different for being gay. He was expecting a roommate that met his standards and was dissapointed when Tyler didn't.

    Posted by: MKe | Feb 25, 2012 4:28:26 PM

  12. Dharun Ravi may not have been homophobic; however,filming another person illegally- and Tyler DID have an expectation of privacy- should be punishable. If Dharun wasn't or can't be proved to be homophobic- that's fine, but he needs to do time for his irresponsible action. Everyone should ask themselves this question: If Dharun hadn't filmed it and tweeted about it to the public, would Tyler have taken his life? No.
    And if there is no way to make him to do time- he should pay- monetarily- or his parents should pay- big time. Tyler's parents should sue the pants off him. I don't know anyone who illegally films other people they barely know having sex- tit's weird, it's wrong, and if it's not illegal, it needs to be made illegal.

    We all make choices, and have to pay the consequences. Dharun made a very, very dumb choice, and there should be consequences for him. And no- NOT time served- as he spent maybe what- a week, a few days in jail? He's been out this whole time.

    Posted by: scott | Feb 25, 2012 4:42:41 PM

  13. There is no legal requirement to like or respect your roommate, and while the prosecution is going to make a big point about this not being about the suicide, it of course has everything to do with the suicide. Also, the prosecutor will raise homophobia because it goes towards intent. The malice of the act was based on homophobia. Cut that down and making the case for malicious intent is much harder. Also, because they had only known each other for a short time, making the case of a pattern of abuse would also be difficult. Ravi's already been convicted in the court of public opinion, but the actual courtroom is a different matter.

    Posted by: anon | Feb 25, 2012 4:47:51 PM

  14. I'm just wondering where it came to these questions of how homophobic he was. In his private(which means I shouldn't have read them but I still did) IM's he did say typical homophobic things. But the point is that he spied on his roommate and made a spectacle out of it. That is the crime, it shouldn't be about some lawyer having to say over and over again that he's not homophobic. If the question is whether Tyler's presumed homosexuality was a factor in the spying, it totally was.

    Posted by: MKe | Feb 25, 2012 4:57:20 PM

  15. @Brad - I never claimed to know the reason he killed himself, I simply said it seems unlikely that a college prank would drive him to it alone. How was Ravi to know the kid had such issues? People who kill themselves don't wake up one morning and say, humm, I think I'll off myself today. I don't have to know him personally to understand that something else must have been going on with him.

    @Robert in NYC - I'm not apologizing for anyone here. I stated very clearly in my post that what Ravi did was wrong and that he should be punished for it. I'm simply making the point that I don't think this rises to the level of a hate crime. You clearly disagree, so lets agree to disagree.

    Posted by: intristin | Feb 25, 2012 5:41:08 PM

  16. They are all saying now "it was never about Tyler being gay" and that it "wasn't a big deal", yet what we know is that Tyler's encounter with the older man was intentionally broadcast secretly with many Rutgers students and others watching and making disparaging and, yes, homophobic comments. That's the reality. So clearly, it was a big deal to them at the moment, and clearly, many of them were/are not OK with homosexuality. But as we've seen throughout this tragic story, the friends of Dharun and others who were directly involved in this secret taping of Tyler, as well those who were intentionally made aware of the video, have been sticking up for Mr. Ravi............and not Tyler. In fact a lot of people within the Rutgers community think that the media/country is only in it to bash their school and use Tyler as a prop for gay rights. Just sad.............really clear a lot of them still don't get it.

    The questions of homophobia can be put aside; the real question is, did Dharun Ravi intentionally invade the privacy of Tyler Clementi? Yes, he did. Was Tyler Clementi put on blast and essentially targeted for jokes and humiliation in an extremely public fashion when word was intentionally spread regarding Tyler's encounter with this man? Yes. Did Mr. Ravi do all of this because Tyler is gay? Yes. That's the bottom line. The attempts to make a victim out of Mr. Ravi are an insult.

    At the end of the day, he needs just punishment for his behavior. He's an adult-aged college student. He should know right from wrong. He did wrong and he has to pay the price. Regardless, the viable lives of Mr. Ravi and the others who have been publicly named as being involved in what caused the tragedy in Tyler committing suicide, are OVER.

    Posted by: Francis | Feb 25, 2012 5:56:19 PM

  17. Again, a reminder that there was no sex tape. It was a few seconds of two people making out. If Clementi was sleeping with an older woman, it would've still been entertaining to teenagers (remember American Pie?).

    The subsequent, second 'show' that Ravi put on Twitter didn't take place as Ravi changed his mind and Clementi blocked out the camera.

    Clementi had been photographing bridges before he even went to Rutgers. All the recorded evidence suggests he'd sorted out his discomfort with Ravi- both his IM transcripts to his friends and his discussions with the university to change rooms (which were accepted and approved).

    Its possible that Ravi's actions were the final trigger for Clementi's sad actions on the GW bridge, but to heap the blame and send the lynch mobs after a teenager who was immature and stupid but not malicious is really kinda gross.

    many Rutgers students and others watching and making disparaging and, yes, homophobic comments

    Were you there? The IM and chat transcripts don't say anything that would suggest a hate crime being planned or undertaken. A bit of surprise, a bit of grossness- but whether its because Clementi was with an older partner or whether he was gay- its impossible to know. I tend to agree with the New Yorker article that the grossness may have been rooted in jealousy. Ravi was a cocky extrovert- Clementi was the shy introvert. Yet Clementi was the one with sexual relationships- with older partners, no less.

    And the 'many' students were four or five, not that makes any difference.

    Posted by: Clif3012 | Feb 25, 2012 6:15:59 PM

  18. I don't know the age of the jurors or their education and certainly not their politics. I can see, based on the prosecutions own witnesses, either a defense verdict or a conviction on a minor count of the indictment. Many middle aged and older jurors will buy the argument that the defendant was a kid and kids do stupid things. The lack of direct evidence (as opposed to circumstantial) of homophobia is a killer. Also contrary to some statements here only a non-sexual moment was broadcast, not genital sex. It is not an easy case for the prosecution on the more serious counts of the indictment, but let's see what the older gent and Ms. Wei say on the stand.

    Posted by: Contrarian | Feb 25, 2012 6:18:39 PM

  19. Ravi was a cocky, good looking jerk who drove a BMW to high school.
    Tyler was a band nerd who had delayed his own coming out, as his stupid mother made him her confidant in her fears that the older brother was Gay.
    They were not a winning combination, and a-hole Ravi did what confident, a-hole 18 yr old can do, make fun of room mate.
    Tyler was cut off at the knees by his mothers' selfish attitude toward his coming out, as I see it, and hoped to finally be happy in college, then his plans were dashed.
    This is like a Shakespearean tragedy, but I see the parents as the villians, and Ravi as the fool who did not realize how delicate Tyler was.

    Posted by: Bob | Feb 25, 2012 6:29:14 PM

  20. I call bull$hit. The position that Ravi only did this because the paramour was older doesn't hold water since he had no idea who would walk in prior to setting up the webcam.

    Position dismissed, Siccko.

    Posted by: Marc C | Feb 25, 2012 6:41:12 PM

  21. If Clementi had been an overweight girl or extremely deformed, it wouldn't have changed the behavior of the roommate. Do yourself a favor and read The New Yorker article, if you haven't already. Knowledge is power.

    Posted by: Cinesnatch | Feb 25, 2012 9:45:02 PM

  22. At the very least Robert needs top go read the New Yorker piece and get his facts straight. No one was "filmed". If you think someone was filmed, you're deluded. Get the facts. It's all very odd and sad.

    Posted by: Bingo | Feb 25, 2012 10:53:51 PM

  23. And Christian says "broadcast". Nothing was broadcast. Let's try living in a fact-based world before spinning theories.

    Posted by: Bingo | Feb 25, 2012 10:55:53 PM

  24. Bull, it's called c.y.a. Why did she watch too? No one wants to be labeled a "hater", so they are going to make up excuses for their disgusting, criminal behavior.

    Posted by: Michael | Feb 26, 2012 12:18:41 AM

  25. awwww, are my F words too serious for some of you?

    This piece of trash Dharun should be thrown in the trash bin where he belongs.
    end of.

    Posted by: marc | Feb 26, 2012 12:22:13 AM

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