Witnesses: Rutgers student didn’t display anti-gay beliefs

Posted at 12:23 PM, Mar 09, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-09 17:53:55-05

By the CNN Wire Staff

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey (CNN) — Witnesses in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of spying on his roommate’s sexual encounter with another man testified Friday they never heard the defendant make derogatory remarks about gay people.

The also said, however, that they never had occasion to discuss the subject with him.

Family friends of then-student, Dharun Ravi, spoke on what was the first day the defense called witnesses.

Ravi is on trial on a 15-count indictment for allegedly spying on and intimidating his roommate, Tyler Clementi, because Clementi was gay.

The 18-year-old roommate committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey and Manhattan, just days after Ravi allegedly streamed the encounter remotely and allowed others to view it.

Among those who were called to testify Friday were Sandeep Sharma and Anil Kappa, both family friends of the defendant.

When asked whether they ever heard Ravi say anything negative about gay people, both said no.

When asked directly how often he spoke about homosexuality with Ravi, Kappa responded: “No, why would that come up? … We never discussed that explicitly.”

The trial of Ravi, now 20, began February 24.

When it’s complete, the jury will weigh his guilt or innocence on various charges including bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, tampering with physical evidence, witness tampering and hindering apprehension or prosecution.

If convicted, Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison. Last year, he turned down a plea deal that would have allowed him to avoid jail time.

He wasn’t the only one charged after Clementi’s suicide. Molly Wei, who admitted joining Ravi to watch the September 19, 2010, webcam encounter, was charged with two counts of invasion of privacy.

She reached a plea deal in May 2011 that required her to testify against her friend and former high school classmate, as well as to complete a three-year program on cyberbullying and do 300 hours of community service.

Clementi’s suicide stirred national discussion regarding bullying, with President Barack Obama releasing a videotaped message less than a month later condemning such treatment.

InSession’s Jim Kyle contributed to this report.

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