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Tyler Clementi’s Makeout Partner To Be Involuntarily Outed

Jim Burroway

October 21st, 2011

Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman has ruled that counsel for Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers student accused of invading the privacy of Tyler Clementi by broadcasting a tryst between Clementi and an unnamed male student, has a right to know the name of that male student. The student, known only as M.B., was seen kissing Clementi in Clementi’s dorm room when Ravi broadcast the private moment over the internet via a web cam. The invasion of that privacy precipitated Clementi’s suicide. Now “M.B.,” who is described as living in “continuous and overwhelming” fear that his identity will become public, will also see his privacy further invaded:

Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman had delayed a September order to release the name of Clementi’s companion, known only as M.B. in court papers, in order to give M.B. a chance to make a last-minute plea for anonymity. But M.B.’s personal, written request to keep his identity secret and his attorney’s legal arguments didn’t convince Berman to reverse his earlier ruling.

He ordered prosecutors to turn over M.B.’s identity to Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers student facing up to 10 years in prison for allegedly using a webcam to spy on the unnamed man and Clementi in his dorm room.

“I have to balance M.B.’s right to privacy and Mr. Ravi’s right to a defense,” Berman said. “I thought I did that on Sept. 9 and I feel I did the right thing … The order continues and stands.”

Neither Clementi nor “M.B.” put themselves into an illegal situation. They both engaged in a private moment, and they both had the right to expect that moment to remain private. What’s more, it appears that there may be repurcussions that go far beyond discovering who kissed Clementi:

Before he died, Clementi told friends his companion, M.B., was in his 20s and not comfortable with others knowing he is gay. [Emphasis mine]

The concern now is that an innocent man who is not openly gay may find his name leaked to the press or, worse, called by the defense team to the stand to testify.

Comments

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Varburg
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

I can’t imagine what they could possibly hope to gain by putting MB on the stand.
They’d almost be doing what the defendant is accused of! This is like the lawyer for someone accused of assault threatening to punch a witness in the face.

tavdy79
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

Does M.B. have the option of requesting a court order banning Ravi and the defence team (or anyone else) from making his identity publicly known?

David Roberts
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

To me, the only real question here is whether or not the testimony of M.B. is vital to the defense, and, if so, whether or not it he must be identified in open court to give it.

If the answers to those two questions are yes, then I don’t see how the judge would have any other choice. A person cannot be denied a proper defense, even to protect the privacy of another. This applies regardless of how we may feel about the defendant.

My own concern, and one I hope the judge has addressed in his deliberations, is that M.B.’s testimony is not really helpful and is only being used as a distraction. We can only hope the judge has accurately assessed the situation — that’s his job.

Regan DuCasse
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

He’s a victim of invasion of privacy, just as Tyler was.
The whole POINT of this trial, is Ravi outed Tyler and risked outing MB as well.

If the lesson here is to NOT DO THAT, then how does calling MB as a witness help the defense, let alone serve JUSTICE for Tyler and other victims of malicious disclosure?

Rape victim identities are kept secret, even in open court. I don’t see why MB’s identity can’t be kept secret for the same reason. HE is the one, as was Tyler, who deserves protection. The risks are greater, as they were for Tyler.
There is precedent here, I would think for that.

I wonder what Davi’s defense lawyer’s strategy is here in this case.
That DAVI is a victim of Tyler because Tyler’s REACTION was more extreme than he anticipated?
Even then, how is MB’s testimony helpful to that DEFENSE?!

Jerry
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

The only possible scenario I can envision for the judges decision is that Dhavi intends to implicate M.B. as a co-conspirator to out Clementi. Anything else makes no sense.

Charles
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

My sympathy is with M.B………..but the time has come to step forward with no shame or hesitation.

F Young
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

This may well be just a Machiavellian plea-bargaining chip: “If you don’t let me off with a slap on the wrist, we’ll out the other guy too, in court.”

M.B., you have a lot of support, more than you can know right now. Get any help you may need. Be strong. You can come out of this stronger than you can imagine.

Charles
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

“This may well be just a Machiavellian plea-bargaining chip: “If you don’t let me off with a slap on the wrist, we’ll out the other guy too, in court.”

M.B., you have a lot of support, more than you can know right now. Get any help you may need. Be strong. You can come out of this stronger than you can imagine.” – F.Young

Exactly my thoughts. Their is no shame in being gay …….. step forward with deep sincerity and honesty.

Lightning Baltimore
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

How can Ravi possibly get a fair trial if he and his legal team don’t have the opportunity to drive M.B. to suicide, as well?

Lightning Baltimore
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

The reader comments in the linked article are quite nasty. Gays are the real bullies, etc.

Ryan
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

This reminds me of when NOM and others pretend to be afraid of teh evil gays seeking retribution if the tapes of the Prop 8 trials come to light, or the names of donors. Their argument is crap, and this argument is crap.
Ravi has a right to his own defense, and M.B. is a part of that defense. M.B.’s discomfort at being outed should not supersede the law.

enough already
October 21st, 2011 | LINK

The price of fair trials is very high.
The alternative is worse.
Sadly, this young man is caught up in the evil which the defendant has done.

I don’t think gays who aren’t hurting others should be outed against their will. (Republicans and conservative Christians on the other hand are always fair game and should be outed for maximum harm to them).

This troubles me. I also doubt that anything can be done to prevent the defense from mounting the nastiest anti-gay spectacle they can, it often works in this bigoted country.

Still, the fact that the judge gave the matter consideration is a good sign.
Should this jerk actually be found guilty (which I doubt) then it is important the conservative Christians have nothing on which to base their attacks on justice.

WMDKitty
October 22nd, 2011 | LINK

The judge is wrong — there is no valid legal reason to violate this young man’s privacy. This is purely an intimidation tactic.

enough already
October 22nd, 2011 | LINK

WMDKitty,
Unfortunately, if we are to have a justice system at all, then there has to be a bias towards defense of the accused.

It is not fair, it is not satisfying, it is certainly not what we of the queer community experience as often as do the hateful Christians who attack us. None-the-less, it is the only way to prevent society from becoming a tyranny of the majority against the rights of the minority.

OK, I know that rings hollow given our sub-human status in the US. It’s still the right thing to do, even if it doesn’t hold for us.

Patrick Hogan
October 22nd, 2011 | LINK

If the defense thinks that outing MB to the court will help their case, I wish them well in it; however, all possible measures should be taken to prevent MB’s identity from becoming public. Anything less is witness intimidation.

Laura
October 22nd, 2011 | LINK

So basically the judge is just finishing what Ravi started. What a gross injustice.

Theo
October 22nd, 2011 | LINK

This post and the related comments will never be cited as an example of great blogging. BTB, you should consider getting an attorney to weigh in on legal controversies from time to time. Because this post falls below BTB’s usual high standards. And the comments are like something out of a gay version of Free Republic.

Witnesses can be called to testify if they have testimony that is relevant to either the prosecution or the defense. It is not necessary that the testimony be “vital” to the case, as is asserted by commenter David Roberts. Nor is it the least bit relevant whether MB himself did anything illegal, as Burroway obtusely suggests. The vast majority of fact witnesses in criminal cases are not themselves suspected or accused of criminal acts. MB would not be called to testify as a punishment for wrongdoing, but in order to provide evidence so that the jury can reach a just verdict.

So the only question is whether he has anything relevant to add to the body of evidence. Ultimately, the judge will determine that. All the judge has permitted here is for Ravi (please note Regan Ducasse, that the defendant’s name is not “Davi”) to know the identity of this potential witness so that they can investigate and assess whether he should be put on a witness list. If Ravi cannot then justify calling MB as a witness, then the judge won’t permit it.

What useful testimony might MB add? Well, Ravi told the police that he interacted with MB when MB came to visit Clementi. He also told the police that he thought MB looked “shady” and he was concerned that MB might try to steal his stuff when MB was in the Ravi/Clementi dorm room, thus prompting Ravi to activate the webcam. Ravi might argue that MB can confirm that Ravi did not display any anti-gay hostility toward MB during their interaction (this being pertinent to the hate crimes charge) and that MB might bolster Ravi’s claim that he had reasonable grounds for fearing theft.

Is this persuasive? I tend to think not, but the point is that Ravi’s defense team is entitled to make this and other arguments to the judge. They can’t do that if they don’t even know who MB is. The judge did the right thing here. He also deprived the Ravi team of an easy basis for a later appeal.

enough already
October 23rd, 2011 | LINK

Theo,
As valid as your points are, your high-handed dismissal of those of us not gifted with your intricate knowledge of the legal system in America is less than useful.
One need not be a lawyer to understand that justice and law are two entirely separate concepts in the American system of law, especially when it comes to us.

The Lauderdale
October 24th, 2011 | LINK

I appreciated Theo’s comment. It contributed useful information to the discussion and gave me some possible answers as to why the heck THE JUDGE would have ruled in favor of admitting MB’s name to the proceedings. It’s true that it smacks of an intimidation tactic by the defense, but I couldn’t imagine why the judge would permit it unless it serves some plausible additional purpose. Theo’s comment offered some possible theories.

The Lauderdale
October 24th, 2011 | LINK

In short, yes. Useful.

The Lauderdale
October 24th, 2011 | LINK

…my apologies to enough already. I reread, and I see that it was Theo’s dismissal that you didn’t find useful. You made that clear enough, had I been reading more carefully.

enough already
October 25th, 2011 | LINK

No problem, TL.
Theo made salient points, I just didn’t care for his cavelier dismissal of the work done by Jim Burroway and the many others here who take their time to provide us with information and resources in this awful fight to stop the murder and rape, beating and oppression of the GLBT community.

I, myself, have serious disagreements with Jim and others here on various subjects, to put it mildly. There is, however, no question that without the efforts of boxturtlebulletin, Uganda would be murdering gays left and right, legally under their government.

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