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Jurors are due back for third day in Rutgers webcam spying case

By Karen Sudol, The Record (Hackensack N.J.) –

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A jury ended a second day of deliberations without a verdict in the bias intimidation trial of a former Rutgers student accused of exhibiting anti-gay bias against his roommate when he used a webcam to spy on his rendezvous with another man.

The seven women and five men have deliberated for a total of 9½ hours over two days in Dharun Ravi’s trial. At 4:15 p.m. they told the judge they wanted to go home, saying the jury room was too hot. They’re scheduled to return Friday morning.

Ravi faces 15 counts of invasion of privacy, hindering prosecution and bias intimidation. If he is found guilty of two of the second-degree bias intimidation charges, he faces up to 10 years in prison. As a native of India, he also could be deported if convicted.

The only indication of the jury’s thoughts so far comes from two questions they asked on Wednesday. One related to wanting additional explanation on a bias intimidation charge, and the other requesting the judge’s orders to the panel.

Louis Raveson, a professor at the Rutgers School of Law-Newark, said that the question on the charge was telling in that it suggested that the panel may have decided on one invasion of privacy count and that the bias intimidation statute might be difficult to interpret.

Late last year, Ravi, 20, of Plainsboro, rejected a plea offer that would have given him no jail time and assistance from prosecutors if immigration officials pursued deportation.

His roommate, Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood, killed himself days after he learned of Ravi’s actions but Ravi is not charged with causing or contributing to his death. Clementi’s death sparked a national debate about anti-gay bullying and teenage suicide.

As deliberations have progressed, so have the number of representatives of national and international media outlets who are pacing the hallways, seeking new images of both families and typing updates on laptops.

Ravi’s family and lawyers have sat at one end of the hallway, while the Clementis and friends have waited in a nearby wing.

Prosecutors have argued that Ravi invaded the privacy of Clementi and his companion, identified only as M.B., when he activated his webcam from the room of a dorm mate, Molly Wei.

The two watched Clementi and M.B. kissing on Sept. 19, 2010. Ravi then texted, instant messaged and told friends about what he saw. When he found out that a second tryst was to occur two days later, Ravi tweeted about it, inviting friends to video chat him to watch the encounter themselves, prosecutors said.

Ravi told investigators he used the webcam because he was worried that M.B., who he said gave him a bad vibe, was going to steal his iPad. His lawyer has characterized him as just a kid who acted childishly.

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