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Mystery man to testify in trial of Rutgers student accused of watching roommate via webcam
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J (AP) ' The man prosecutors say was secretly watched via webcam while kissing a Rutgers University freshman in a dorm room could testify as early as Wednesday in the privacy-invasion trial of the student's roommate.
The man, who has been identified only by as M.B., has been mentioned often in the first three days of testimony in the trial of Dharun Ravi, 20. Ravi's roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide in September 2010, days after prosecutors say Ravi watched the encounter with M.B.
Little is known about M.B. from court filings, but witnesses have described him as a "sketchy" man around 30 years old. His identity has been kept secret, and it remained unclear Wednesday how tightly M.B.'s identity would be shielded during his testimony.
When the man takes the stand, it could mark the highest-profile testimony in the case, which has drawn national attention as an example of the societal challenges facing young gays and lesbians.
Ravi is not charged in the death of Clementi, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River days after the encounter. Charges against Ravi include a hate crime, invasion of privacy and several counts that accuse him of trying to cover his tracks.
In earlier testimony, former Rutgers student Molly Wei said Ravi showed her a live web stream of Clementi, 18, kissing a man in the dorm room the young men shared.
Wei said she invited Ravi, whom she had known since middle school, to her dorm room for a snack a few minutes after 9 p.m. on Sept. 19, 2010. When Ravi tried to go back, she said, Clementi told him that he wanted the cramped dorm room to himself for a few hours. So Ravi returned.
Within a few minutes, she said, he used her computer to view live images from his webcam. It was then, she said, that she saw about two seconds of Clementi and an older man kissing.
Even though she said they initially agreed not to talk about what they had seen, she asked Ravi to tell a friend about it during an online chat that began at 9:20 p.m. And within minutes, word got around the dorm.
She said she agreed to turn the webcam back on at the request of a woman who was among a group dropped by her room.
"It was the exact same image, except that they had taken their tops off," she said. "As soon as they saw it, I turned it off."
One student who testified got a chuckle from jurors when she described M.B. as "not obscenely old," though another said his age was considered "scandalous."
She said she called Rutgers police a few days later after learning about a Twitter message Ravi posted on Sept. 21, when Clementi requested privacy in the room again.
"Anyone with iChat," he posted, "I dare you to videochat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again."
Wei was initially charged too, but she entered a pretrial intervention program last year that can keep her record clean. One condition of the program is truthful testimony in Ravi's criminal case.
Also testifying is resident assistant Raahi Grover. Defense lawyers want to exclude an email Grover wrote about what he observed and heard from Clementi. They say jurors should not hear that Clementi said he believed Ravi should be punished.
Follow Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill.