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Lawyer in US webcam spying trial says defendant is 'kid,' not criminal
NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey (AP) ' A former U.S. university student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate is a kid, not a criminal, his lawyer said in closing arguments Tuesday.
Steven Altman said the Indian-born Dharun Ravi was surprised to turn on his webcam and see his roommate in an intimate situation with another man. Altman emphasized that there was no recording, no broadcast and no YouTube video of the encounter.
The roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide in September 2010, days after the alleged spying ' drawing national attention to the challenges facing young gays and lesbians in society.
Ravi faces 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation.
Altman said Ravi was not acting out of hatred of his roommate or gays in general.
"If there's hate in Dharun's heart, if there's ugliness in Dharun's heart, where's there some information and some evidence to support it?" he asked the jurors.
Prosecutors were expected to make their closing arguments later in the day. Jurors are expected to start deliberating by Wednesday.
Ravi did not testify, though jurors did see video of a statement he gave to police.
There's no dispute that Ravi saw a brief snippet of video streamed live from his webcam in the Rutgers University dormitory room he shared with Clementi to the laptop of a friend in her dorm room on Sept. 19, 2010.
The friend, Molly Wei, said Clementi and his guest ' identified in the trial only by the initials M.B. ' were fully clothed and kissing at the time.
Ravi posted a Twitter message that night that concluded: "I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."
Two days after the first incident, Clementi asked for the room alone again.
This time, Ravi tweeted: "Yes, it's happening again" and "dared" followers to connect with his computer to video chat. There was testimony that he told one friend that there was going to be a "viewing party."
But there was no webcast. Ravi's lawyers say it's because he disabled his computer before Clementi had M.B. over.
The challenge for jurors could be deciding whether the laws apply to what Ravi is alleged to have done.
One of the invasion-of-privacy charges accuses Ravi of viewing exposed private parts or sex acts ' or a situation where someone might reasonably expect to see them.
Another accuses him of recording or disseminating the images to others. There's no evidence that the webstream was recorded, and witnesses said Ravi wasn't there when Wei opened the webstream for other students.
The bias intimidation charges could also be complicated. Ravi can be convicted of intimidation if he's also found guilty of an underlying invasion of privacy charge. Two of the four charges of that crime are second-degree crimes punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Each of those charges says Ravi committed invasion of privacy ' or attempted to ' out of malice toward gays, or that Clementi believed he was targeted because of his sexuality.
Prosecutors will point to his Twitter postings about his roommate and testimony that Ravi expressed some worries about having a gay roommate. They may also point out that Clementi viewed Ravi's Twitter page 38 times in the last two days of his life as evidence that Clementi believed that Ravi was anti-gay.
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