NEW YORK: The lawyer for an Indian American student accused of spying on his gay roommate has argued that his client was not a criminal and did what he did because he was a kid.
Asking the Middlesex County Superior Court, New Jersey, jury Tuesday to focus on former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi's intent rather than his actions in reaching a verdict, Steven Altman said: "What's important is the context in which everything was done."
But First Assistant County Prosecutor Julia McClure told the jury that Ravi's actions were "mean-spirited and malicious." What's more, she said, "they were criminal."
The conflicting descriptions came as the lawyers offered summations in a nearly three-week trial. Ravi, 20, faces 15 criminal counts - including bias intimidation, a hate crime for which he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
As he did in his Feb 24 opening, Altman told the jury that his client may have been "stupid, ignorant, and immature" when he set up his laptop webcam to spy on Tyler Clementi on Sep 19, 2010.
But, Altman said again and again, Ravi was not criminal and did not intend to intimidate, harass, or belittle Clementi because he was gay.
"He was an 18-year-old boy," Altman said of Ravi. "A boy. A college freshman who had an experience he wasn't ready for . . . and he didn't know how to deal with it because he was a kid."
McClure said Clementi's sexual orientation did motivate Ravi, who, she said, "didn't want to have a gay roommate."
His actions were aimed at "exposing and humiliating" Clementi, she said.
Clementi, 18, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge days after learning of the spying incident. His death is not part of the case against Ravi.