By Karen Sudol, The Record (Hackensack N.J.) –
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Molly Wei and Dharun Ravi watched a video clip of his roommate Tyler Clementi kissing another man from a laptop screen in Wei’s dorm room — then agreed they shouldn’t tell anyone about it.
“Initially we were saying we couldn’t tell anyone what happened,” Wei said when testifying Monday afternoon before a jury in Middlesex County. “It shouldn’t have happened and we saw something we didn’t expect to see and it felt weird.”
The statement came on the second day of testimony in a trial to determine whether Ravi invaded Clementi’s privacy, tampered with witnesses and committed bias intimidation — a charge that carries a 10-year prison sentence if Ravi is convicted. Prosecutors have said Ravi targeted Clementi, of Ridgewood, N.J., because he was gay.
Days after the video incident, Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge. Ravi, of Plainsboro, N.J., is not charged with causing or contributing to Clementi’s death.
Wei, who wore a dark suit, silver-colored blouse and open-toed shoes, appeared calm on the stand Monday afternoon, confidently answering questions brought by both attorneys over a period of several hours.
Wei said Ravi was “freaking out a little” about seeing Clementi, his 18-year-old roommate, kissing another man in their Davidson C dorm room on the Rutgers’ Busch campus on Sept. 19, 2010.
She said she was shocked and felt it was wrong to be viewing the clip.
“First of all I didn’t expect to see two people being in an intimate setting and it was my first experience seeing two males kissing,” she said.
But the pact to keep what they saw secret didn’t last too long.
Wei said she not only chatted online with her boyfriend shortly after witnessing the incident, but later accessed the video to show her roommate and three other friends in her room. That time, they viewed Clementi and the man, identified only as M.B. in court records, kissing with their shirts off.
Ravi, who turns 20 on Tuesday, was not in the room at the time and Wei said she showed the video to the others after one of the girls asked to see it.
She also admitted during questioning by Ravi’s attorney that she told other friends and acquaintances what she had seen.
Wei, who was arrested along with Ravi, entered the Pretrial Intervention program, which required her to testify against Ravi, perform 300 hours of community service and undergo counseling.
During her testimony, she described how Ravi arrived at her room Sept. 19 and accessed the video from her laptop.
“He explained to me that he could see what was going on in his room if he called himself from someone else’s computer,” she said.
A live image then popped up; Wei said she knew it was Ravi’s room because he told her he set up a webcam.
While being questioned at Rutgers University police headquarters days after the incident, Wei said, Ravi texted her about what types of questions she was being asked and her responses, she said.
Steven Altman, Ravi’s attorney, has argued that Ravi may have acted stupidly but not criminally.
During questioning by Altman, Wei said Ravi mentioned Clementi was gay “but he didn’t make a big deal out of it.”
“I didn’t get the sense he didn’t like Tyler; just that they were different,” she said.
“Did he say the reason he wanted to do this was because he wanted to see something sexual take place in the room?” Altman asked her. She replied no.
She said Ravi told her that he was concerned about his belongings being stolen. If his iPad was taken, he said, he was going to make Clementi pay for a new one, she said.
Rutgers University student Pooja Kolluri, who watched a video clip with Wei, testified earlier Monday that Ravi told her he set up the webcam because he was worried about his belongings but also wanted to confirm his suspicions that Clementi was gay.
William O’Brien, associate director of residence life at Rutgers, said Clementi filed an online application for a room change at 3:55 a.m. Sept. 21 — less than two days after Ravi and Wei watched his romantic encounter.
Wei is scheduled to return to the stand Tuesday for more questioning by Altman. The trial is expected to last three to four weeks.