New Jersey Jury selection to begin in webcam spying case

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) -- The trial of a former Rutgers student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man could reveal some of the mystery that surrounds the case if the unidentified man in the video is called to testify.

The story touched off a national conversation about the impact of bullying of young gays in 2010 after the roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide in the days following the alleged spying.

The suspect, Dharun Ravi, is not charged with his death, however he is charged with bias intimidation, a hate crime punishable by 10 years in prison; invasion of privacy and tampering with evidence and a witness.

Questioning of potential jurors is scheduled to begin Wednesday in the case.

But the suicide will certainly loom over the trial. When prospective jurors went to court on Friday to fill out questionnaires, Judge Glenn Berman told them that Clementi had killed himself.

The trial is going forward because Ravi, 19, rejected a plea bargain offer that would have let him avoid any jail time and receive the state's help if federal authorities tried to deport him to India, where he was born. Lawyer Steven Altman said the reason for not accepting the deal was simple: He's not guilty of any crimes.

If the other man in the video is brought to the witness stand, his testimony could become a key part of the trial. He's been identified publicly only by the initial M.B.

A legal battle in the case leading up to the trial focused on whether Ravi and his lawyers could learn the man's identity. Eventually, the judge ruled they could. If he testifies, his full name is expected to be used.

Published: Tue, Feb 21, 2012