National/World

Friends: NJ student didn't express anti-gay views

Friday, March 09, 2012
Dharun Ravi listens to testimony during his trial at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick, N.J. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Ravi is accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, intimate encounter with another man. Days later Clementi committed suicide. Ravi, 19, faces 15 criminal charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime punishable by up to 10 years in state prison.

Dharun Ravi listens to testimony during his trial at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick, N.J. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. Ravi is accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, intimate encounter with another man. Days later Clementi committed suicide. Ravi, 19, faces 15 criminal charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime punishable by up to 10 years in state prison. (AP Photo / AP Photo/The Star-Ledger, John O'Boyle)

They never knew Dharun Ravi to say anything bad about gays. But they also never discussed it with him.

That was what seven character witnesses had to say Friday in the trial of Ravi, a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man.

Ravi, now 20, is accused of using a webcam for the central crime, then using Twitter, instant messages and texts to tell friends about it. He's charged with 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy.

His roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide in September 2010, just days after the alleged spying.

Most of the men called by defense lawyers were software engineers and current or former business associates of Ravi's father. All of them said they had never known Ravi to express any anti-gay views.

But on cross-examination, they all said they had never discussed the issue with him.

"Why would that come up?" said one of the men, Anil Kappa, a business partner of Ravi's father when First Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Julia McCLure asked how often he had discussed homosexuality.

The men, all of whom appeared to be middle-aged, said they never followed Ravi on Twitter, or exchanged text messages or instant messages with him.

Those communication means are central to the case.

The seven men testified in a total of about one hour. Their brief appearances on the witness stand were a contrast to the prosecutor's case, in which nearly two dozen witnesses were called over 10 days.

Defense lawyers also said they intended to call two detectives to testify. One, Frank DiNinno, an investigator with the Middlesex County prosecutor's office, was mentioned often by prosecution witnesses.

A handful of the Rutgers students who testified referred to him as "Frank," and Ravi's lawyers appeared to be trying to raise the idea that he was too friendly with the students.

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