Nancy Solomon, Managing Editor, New Jersey Public Radio
Nancy Solomon is the Managing Editor of New Jersey Public Radio.
In the last two days of his life, Rutgers student Tyler Clementi read the tweets of his roommate, Dharun Ravi, and took screen shots that were saved onto his computer in the days before his suicide.
A computer crimes investigator for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office testified Tuesday in the Rutgers webcam spying trial. The investigator said Clementi looked at Ravi’s tweets 59 times in the week before his death, and 38 of those visits came in the last two days before he jumped off the George Washington bridge.
Ravi is charged with invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. He allegedly used his twitter account to dare friends to video chat him while his webcam was set up to operate remotely while Clementi had an intimate encounter with a man in their room.
In the week before Clementi’s suicide, Ravi tweeted twice about Clementi. First describing how he saw Clementi “kissing a dude” on his webcam and then daring friends to sign into his video chat account to view a second date Clementi was having with that same man.
The new details came out in the testimony of Gary Charydszak, who conducted a forensic investigation of the computers of Clementi, Ravi and co-defendant Molly Wei, who has accepted a plea deal.
Charydszak also testified that Ravi searched for Clementi, and the terms “gay” and “homosexual” in August before moving into the dorm.
Ravi is charged with tampering with evidence by deleting and sending tweets that change the meaning of his earlier messages. In one tweet, he says “ignore last tweet” because it was meant to be a draft.
Prosecutor Julia McClure asked Charydszak about Ravi’s Twitter history, which he said dates back to his last year in high school, seeming to suggest to the jury that he had too much experience with Twitter to make a simple mistake.
In testimony earlier Tuesday, Rutgers computer system manager Timothy Hayes told jurors it appears Ravi's computer was used in two video chats on Sept. 21, 2010.
That doesn't prove that Ravi spied on his roommate, but it may bolster the prosecution's case that he was preparing to attempt to spy on Clementi that night. Clementi committed suicide a day later.
Hayes told jurors that the data the university collected was not able to show online interactions between two computers on the same wing of the dorm. But Charydczak testified that the computer of another dorm resident, Molly Wei, had a record of a videochat Sept. 19 at about the time she said that she and Ravi briefly used it to see Clementi and the other man kissing.
Prosecutors also have been building the case that Ravi went to the rooms of dorm mates that evening to test his webcam.
They tried to use Hayes' testimony to corroborate that. He said there was a web chat between his computer and Lokesh Ojha's at 6:58 p.m. that evening, and another with Alissa Agarwal starting 46 minutes later. Both those students testified that Ravi showed them how they could use a web chat program to see what was happening in his room.
There has been no evidence that anyone used a videochat service to spy on Clementi that night.
Court documents suggest that Ravi's computer was unplugged before his guest arrived.
Hayes said it seems that Ravi's computer was unplugged for about two hours that night, beginning at 9:25 p.m.