Dharun Ravi, a 20-year-old former Rutgers University student, convicted on March 16 in a 2010 webcam spying case targeting his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi, has agreed to begin his 30-day jail sentence on May 31.
According to NJ.com, Ravi appeared in Superior Court in New Brunswick early in the morning on May 30 to tell Judge Glenn Berman that, despite a pending appeal of his conviction, he was willing to begin serving his sentence, which also includes 300 hours of community service, counseling on what the judge termed “cyberbullying” and “alternative lifestyles,” three years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.
Ravi’s attorney, Joseph Benedict, said his client would begin his community service after his jail time and initiate installment payments on his fine on August 1.
Ravi will spend his time in the Middlesex County jail –– not in a state prison –– and could be released after 20 days.
Steven Altman, another of Ravi’s attorneys, released a statement on the eve of the May 30 hearing offering the young man’s first formal apology for the spying events, which were followed several days later by the suicide of Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers freshman who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.
“My behavior and actions, which at no time were motivated by hate, bigotry, prejudice, or desire to hurt, humiliate, or embarrass anyone, were nonetheless the wrong choices and decisions,” the statement read. “I apologize to everyone affected by those choices.” Ravi termed his actions “thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid, and childish choices.”
The jail time, ordered in a sentencing hearing on May 21, was based on concurrent 30-day sentences for six of the 24 counts on which Ravi was convicted. He was found guilty of multiple counts of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness and evidence tampering, and evasion of apprehension.
Immediately after the sentence was handed down, the Middlesex County prosecutor announced plans to appeal Ravi’s sentence, arguing that it was “insufficient,” so the defendant could have deferred his jail time until the appeal was resolved.
“It's the only way I can get on with my life,” Ravi said in his written statement, explaining his decision to serve his time now.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan, in a May 21 statement, said that while his office “did not request the maximum period of incarceration for Dharun Ravi, it was expected that his conviction on multiple offenses of invading the privacy of two victims on two separate occasions, four counts of bias intimidation against Tyler Clementi, and the coverup of those crimes, would warrant more than a 30-day jail term. The imposition of this term is insufficient under the sentencing laws of this state, the facts that were determined by a jury, and long-standing appellate precedent. Consequently, this office will appeal the sentence.”
At the May 30 hearing, first assistant prosecutor Julia McClure said her office believes the defendant deserves five years in prison.
According to nj.com, Berman said, “I'll stand on belief that his conduct was wrong. But I don't believe it was hate-motivated.” He added, “I can’t find it in me to remand this gentleman to a state prison that houses such people convicted of murder, robbery, and rape.”
At the sentencing hearing nine days earlier, however, the judge was scathing in his comments about Ravi.
“I haven’t heard you apologize once,” he said. Berman noted that Ravi’s pre-sentencing letter also failed to acknowledge the seven charges related to his cover-up for which he was convicted.
Stating that the witness best able to describe Ravi’s behavior was dead, the judge pointed out that Clementi had called the defendant’s behavior “wildly inappropriate.” Berman did not allow the jury to hear those words, but said he could not put them out of his own mind in coming to a decision on sentencing.
The judge focused a good deal of attention on the steps Ravi took to evade law enforcement, describing that effort as “anything but isolated and spontaneous… This was a cold, calculated, and methodically conceived” plan.
During the trial, there was testimony that the videotaping captured images of Clementi kissing another man, identified only as M.B., who is now 32. Prosecutors introduced evidence that on 38 occasions in the days before his suicide, Clementi went online to look at a Ravi tweet saying he’d viewed his roommate “making out with a dude.”
The prosecutor also charged that Ravi deleted a Twitter post alerting others to a September 21 encounter between the two gay men, replacing it “with a false post on Twitter intended to mislead the investigation.” Evidence was presented showing that the defendant provided false information to investigators and attempted to persuade witnesses not to testify against him.
A star violin player from Ridgewood, New Jersey, Clementi was described, at the time of his suicide, as a shy young man who had only recently come out to his parents.
In his sentencing, Berman emphasized that Ravi was not convicted of contributing to Clementi’s death. He also said he would recommend that the defendant, an immigrant from India, not be deported, though he added that a final decision on that was not his, but rather to be made by federal immigration authorities.