Aug 292011
 
Authors: George Anastasia- McClatchy Tribune

PHILADELPHIA — The former Rutgers University student charged with illegally videotaping his roommate having a sexual encounter with another man texted an apology to the roommate, unaware that about same the time the roommate was standing on the George Washington Bridge contemplating suicide, his lawyers said in court papers filed Thursday.

“I’m sorry if you heard something distorted and disturbing, but I assure you all my actions were good-natured,” lawyers for Dharun Ravi said he wrote in a text to Tyler Clementi around 8:46 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2010.

The lawyers, in a lengthy motion asking that all charges against their client be dropped, said they could not determine whether Clementi, 18, ever read the text.

Clementi jumped off the bridge to his death that night.

In the motion and supporting documents totaling nearly 700 pages, lawyers for Ravi, 19, of Plainsboro, N.J., asked a Middlesex County Court judge to throw out the bias intimidation and invasion of privacy charges against Ravi for a lack of evidence.

The defense attorneys also argued that the county prosecutor’s office had failed to provide a grand jury with a complete picture of the case; had distorted statements that mitigated against their client’s culpability; and had failed to adequately determine whether any of the grand jurors were prejudiced by the massive publicity surrounding the case.

“The news media picked up on the story, which became a worldwide beacon of discussion about gay youth suicides and ‘cyber-bullying,’” attorneys Steven Altman and Philip Nettl wrote in their legal brief.

But, they contended, in most instances the media had the story wrong.

In a sweeping presentation of their version of the events that culminated with Clementi’s suicide, the lawyers said their client was neither homophobic nor out to intimidate Clementi.

The legal brief included the apology the lawyers say Ravi sent by text to Clementi and other statements from Ravi and others that supported the defense position that he did not try to harass or intimidate Clementi, nor did he circulate Internet video of the sexual encounters.

In fact, the lawyers argued, despite the prosecution’s contention, there was no video of sexual relations between Clementi and an individual identified only as “M.B.”

Clementi and M.B. had two encounters in the dorm room on the Busch campus on Rutgers University, according to the court record. The first, on Sept. 19, was picked up on Ravi’s computer via iChat. The second, despite allegations to the contrary, was not, the defense contends.

The case, which has attracted national attention and has become a rallying point for gay and lesbian civil rights groups, is set for trial later this year.

Ravi could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the most serious bias intimidation charges.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has two weeks to respond to the motion.
Clementi’s family could not be reached for comment.

The defense brief also pointed to e-mails Clementi allegedly sent to a friend after he learned that Ravi and others students had viewed the Sept. 19 encounter.

The motion for dismissal cites an e-mail Clementi sent to a friend in which he questioned Ravi’s actions, but then joked about the incident and said it was “not so bad.” He also dismissed the idea that this was any kind of “hate crime,” the lawyers contend.

The defense also asked the court to order the prosecutor’s office to turn over three documents from Clementi’s computer that they allege show he was in a state of depression weeks, if not months, before the incidents in the dorm room.

“Whatever feelings were controlling (Clementi’s) behavior appear to have had their roots far from Busch campus, and far from defendant,” the lawyers argued, citing among other things comments made to Rutgers authorities by Clementi’s mother on the night she reported him missing and also the fact that Clementi had taken three pictures of the George Washington Bridge with his cellphone weeks before the suicide.

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