A camera pointed at the bed where Tyler Clementi and his date were having a sexual encounter triggered concerns and uneasiness about whether the pair should continue to meet in the dorm room, Clementi's date told a court room today.
As the star witness the in webcam spying case against Dharun Ravi, the man known only as M.B. gave detailed testimony of feeling "uneasy" after seeing the webcam and then getting stared at by students in the hallway after the date.
"I noticed there was a webcam, faced over in the direction of the bed. I just thought it was strange. Being in a compromising position, it just caught my eye that there was a camera lens looking right at me," he told the courtroom.
M.B. indicated the two men were passionate, saying, "We wanted to see each other every single night."
And he bristled when defense lawyer Steven Altman repeatedly asked why they met in Clementi's dorm room rather than going out for coffee or a movie.
Leaning forward at time and looking visibly irritated, he told Altman, "I was allowed to be there."
Ravi is accused of activating the webcam from a different dorm room to spy on Clementi and M.B. during their date on Sept. 19, 2010, and inviting others to watch a second date on Sept. 21.
Ravi is on trial charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest, and faces 10 years in prison if convicted.
The case gained national prominence when Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge a day after he complained to his dorm adviser about the spying and had asked for a different room. Clementi left a suicide note, but its contents have not been disclosed.
M.B., described earlier by Rutgers students as "shady," arrived in court in a blue and white striped shirt and black pants. He was clean-shaven and had short black hair. Under court restrictions, the media was allowed to only show M.B.'s hands during the testimony and the audio of the pool camera was shut off. He arrived in the courtroom without going through any of the courthouse's public hallways.
In front of a packed courtroom with Clementi's mother, father, and two brothers in the front row, the witness described how he met Clementi on a gay dating site, Adam4Adam, and began chatting online with him in August 2010. They decided to meet in person once Clementi began attending Rutgers.
M.B. said he drove to Rutgers for the first time Sept. 16, 2010, to hang out with Clementi from about midnight until about 2 a.m., while Clementi's roommate, Ravi, was out of the room.
"I just didn't want his roommate to have trouble with two gay lovers in a room that he shared. I was just trying to be respectful of his roommate. Our intentions were to get intimate," he said.
The next time M.B. went to Rutgers to see Clementi, on Sept. 19, 2010, the pair were spied on by Ravi, who activated his webcam for several seconds and saw the two men standing up and kissing in the dorm room. M.B. testified that the pair had sex during the date.
M.B. said he recalled seeing the webcam "on top of the computer," and heard people outside the dorm room window laughing.
"I could hear people out in the courtyard. People joking, people laughing...at someone else's expense," he said.
M.B. also said he felt uncomfortable as he left.
"I started walking down toward the end of the hallway. A group of people standing there were looking at me...it seemed unsettling," M.B. said, describing his exit from the dorm room after his date with Clementi. "I would say about five people (were watching me)."
After the pair's second date, they kept in touch through text messages and email and planned to see one another again, though M.B. said he had reservations about whether he wanted to visit the dorm room again.
"I did intend to see him. As far as whether I intended to see him there again, I felt a little uneasy about it," he said. "To get intimate, we had talked about going to a hotel."
"We discussed meeting at my house...weekdays at my house were usually free," he said.
Prior to M.B.'s testimony, a string of Rutgers students testified about the week during which the alleged spying occurred, disclosing that Ravi told friends that he had spied on Clementi's Sept. 19 date and planned to do it again during another date on Sept. 21.
Ravi also sent Twitter messages about the spying, and invited others to activate his webcam remotely to watch the tryst as well, the students testified.
The students also told the court that Ravi, now 20, had not expressed any animosity towards gays or towards Clementi. One student said Ravi's concern was that his roommate's date was an older man who was not apparently a Rutgers student and that Ravi feared the man would steal his iPad.
The case gained national prominence when Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge a day after he complained to his dorm adviser about the spying and had asked for a different room. Ravi is charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest.
Clementi left a suicide note, but its contents have not been disclosed.