US: Friends say Ravi wasn't anti-gay



New York: Friends of Indian-origin student Dharun Ravi, who is on trial for allegedly spying on his roommate's sexual encounter with another man, have testified that he never harboured anti-gay sentiments.

Taking the stand in the trial of 20-year-old Ravi for the defence, which began its case in a New Jersey court, were seven character witnesses, who were acquaintances of the former Rutgers University student and his father.

They testified that they had never heard Ravi say anything bad or negative about gay people.

"I never heard him say anything about homosexuals or anyone who might be homosexual," Sandeep Sharma, an executive at an IT company where Ravi had once interned, testified yesterday.

Ravi faces 15 counts, including charges of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation for spying on his roommate Tyler Clementi as he was being intimate with another man.

Clementi committed suicide in September 2010, days after he found out that Ravi had watched him through his webcam while he was with the other man.

The defence has tried to portray Ravi as an "immature" young boy who meant no harm to Clementi when he set up a webcam to spy on him.

On cross-examination by prosecutor Julia McClure, the witnesses conceded that they had not discussed the topic of homosexuality with Ravi around the time of Clementi's death.

"Why would that come up?" said Anil Kappa, a business partner of Ravi's father. "No, we never discussed homosexuality."

The testimony of the seven character witnesses, all middle-aged men, was completed in an hour.

During the trial yesterday, Ravi's lawyer Steven Altman interrogated Frank DiNinno of the Middlesex County prosecutor's office about how he conducted 32 interviews for the case, many of them with Ravi's friends.

Altman asked DiNinno whether in his interviews he had asked if Ravi had shown "any kind of bias toward homosexuals or gays."

"As part of the fact-finding process, yes," DiNinno said. "We wanted to learn everything."

The trial was adjourned for the weekend before any details emerged.

Altman said he has not yet decided whether Ravi would testify in the trial, which could last 3-4 weeks.

PTI