A former Rutgers University freshman pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy for using a webcam to view his roommate's sexual encounter with another man. The roommate committed suicide days afterward.
Dharun Ravi, 19, of Plainsboro, said nothing during a brief arraignment hearing at Middlesex County Superior Court in New Brunswick. His lawyer, Steven Altman, entered the plea for him. Altman and Ravi declined to comment after the hearing.
This was the first court appearance for Ravi, who was arrested in October and has since been free on $25,000 bail. Prosecutors say Ravi secretly watched his roommate, Tyler Clementi, using a webcam. Ravi allegedly activated the webcam remotely from another student's dorm room on Sept. 19, 2010. Ravi posted on Twitter that he saw Clementi "making out with a dude." Two days later, Ravi tweeted that it was "happening again" and told his followers to view iChat, a messaging service with a live video feed.
Clementi, 18, jumped off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010.
Ravi was charged in a 15-count indictment in April with invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors also charged Ravi with hindering their investigation; they say he altered and deleted text messages and tweets.
A second defendant in the case, Molly Wei, agreed to testify against Ravi, and could have her charges dropped as a result. Wei, 19, of Princeton, is charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for letting Ravi use a computer in her dorm room to stream the video.
At a hearing in Middlesex County Superior Court May 6, Wei admitted her role in the secret recording, waived her right to have the charges against her presented to a grand jury and agreed to enroll in an intervention program. She declined to comment after the hearing, but her lawyer said she is cooperating with authorities and that she should "not be a poster child for this."
All three students were freshman at Rutgers University's Piscataway campus. After Clementi's death, both Ravi and Wei withdrew.
Another court hearing has been scheduled for July 25.