Rutgers Spying Defendant Sentenced To 30-Day Jail Term

A judge here sentenced Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail Monday for using a webcam to spy on his Rutgers University roommate having sex with a man, in a case that galvanized concern about suicide among gay teenagers but also prompted debate about the use of laws against hate crimes.

Dharun Ravi arriving for his sentencing on Monday.

A judge here sentenced Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail Monday for using a webcam to spy on his Rutgers University roommate having sex with a man, in a case that galvanized concern about suicide among gay teenagers but also prompted debate about the use of laws against hate crimes.

The case drew wide attention because his roommate, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge a few days after learning of the spying. A jury convicted Mr. Ravi in March of all 15 counts against him, which included invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. The relatively light sentence — he faced up to 10 years in prison — surprised many who were watching the hearing, as it came after the judge spent several minutes lambasting Mr. Ravi’s behavior.

“You lied to your roommate who placed his trust in you without any conditions, and you violated it,” said the judge, Glenn Berman of State Superior Court. “I haven’t heard you apologize once.”

Mr. Ravi — who also was sentenced to three years’ probation, 300 hours of community service, counseling about cyberbullying and alternate lifestyles and a $10,000 probation fee — was not charged with causing Mr. Clementi’s death, but the suicide hung heavily over the trial, and over Monday’s sentencing hearing. Mr. Clementi’s mother, father and brother all read statements, their voices occasionally quivering as they spoke. “I cannot imagine the level of rejection, isolation and disdain he must have felt from his peers,” Tyler’s brother, James Clementi, said. “Dharun never bothered to care about the harm he was doing to my brother’s heart and mind. My family has never heard an apology, an acknowledgment of any wrongdoing.”

His mother, Jane Clementi, also criticized students who knew about the spying from Mr. Ravi’s Twitter feeds. “How could they all go along with such meanness?” she said. “Why didn’t any one of them speak up and try to stop it?”Mr. Ravi’s lawyers had asked Judge Berman to sentence him only to probation, arguing that it would be a “serious injustice” to imprison him because his actions had not included violence or threats.

They had attached statements of support from friends, including some who testified against Mr. Ravi to detail his spying on Mr. Clementi, in arguing that he had no bias against gay men and lesbians. Hundreds of people, many of them, like Mr. Ravi, from India, had attended rallies urging the judge not to incarcerate him.

On Monday, Steven Altman, a lawyer for Mr. Ravi, said that he was being “demonized by the gay community” upon the mistaken belief that he caused his roommate’s death, and that the belief was infused throughout the entire prosecution. “This case is contrived, is being treated and exists today as if it’s a murder case,” he said.

He also said that prison would serve no more deterrent purpose than probation and community service, and that Mr. Ravi’s age should be taken into account. “His youth and immaturity were unable to provide him with the tools necessary to appreciate the consequences of his actions,” he said.

The lead prosecutor, Julia McClure, adamantly opposed the request for probation, urging the judge to respect the jurors and the time they had spent with the evidence, rather than the opinions of “uninformed” commentators and academics who had not spent as much time looking at all of the evidence.

She noted that in court, Mr. Ravi’s lawyers had attacked the credibility of one of the friends now offering a statement of support, a turn Ms. McClure called “nothing short of astonishing.”

On Monday, she told Judge Berman, “All of the defendant’s actions in this case were planned, they were purposeful and they were malicious.”

Mr. Ravi, 20, who is a legal resident but not a citizen, could face deportation, but the judge said he would add a letter to his record encouraging the immigration authorities not to deport him.

He had rejected three offers for a plea bargain that called for no jail time, but a long period of community service, along with sensitivity training. That sentence resembled what many of those rallying to his defense were calling for. But the plea would have required him to admit to hate crimes, and his lawyers said he refused to admit to acting out of bigotry.

Mr. Altman told the judge on Monday, “They wanted him to plead guilty to being a hatemonger, homophobic and antigay, and he wasn’t going to do it.”

Many campaigners for gay rights hailed the jury’s verdict as a bold strike against bias, a message that bullying of gays should not be dismissed as juvenile foolishness.

The lead prosecutor, Julia McClure, adamantly opposed the request for probation, urging the judge to respect the jurors and the time they had spent with the evidence, rather than the opinions of “uninformed” commentators and academics who had not spent as much time looking at all of the evidence.

She noted that in court, Mr. Ravi’s lawyers had attacked the credibility of one of the friends now offering a statement of support, a turn Ms. McClure called “nothing short of astonishing.”

On Monday, she told Judge Berman, “All of the defendant’s actions in this case were planned, they were purposeful and they were malicious.”Mr. Ravi, 20, who is a legal resident but not a citizen, could face deportation, but the judge said he would add a letter to his record encouraging the immigration authorities not to deport him. He had rejected three offers for a plea bargain that called for no jail time, but a long period of community service, along with sensitivity training. That sentence resembled what many of those rallying to his defense were calling for. But the plea would have required him to admit to hate crimes, and his lawyers said he refused to admit to acting out of bigotry.

Mr. Altman told the judge on Monday, “They wanted him to plead guilty to being a hatemonger, homophobic and antigay, and he wasn’t going to do it.”

Many campaigners for gay rights hailed the jury’s verdict as a bold strike against bias, a message that bullying of gays should not be dismissed as juvenile foolishness.

But some prominent gay commentators voiced discomfort with bringing hate crimes charges against Mr. Ravi, saying that what he did was repugnant, but was not the kind of sustained or aggressive behavior that constitutes bullying.

Mr. Clementi and Mr. Ravi had been three weeks into their freshman year at Rutgers when Mr. Clementi, an 18-year-old who had recently come out to his parents, asked if he could have the room for the evening so he could be alone with a boyfriend he had met on a Web site for gay men.

In court, prosecutors presented a long trail of electronic evidence to show how Mr. Ravi had set up a webcam to spy on the men, then gone into a friend’s room and watched. He caught only a glimpse of Mr. Clementi and his boyfriend in an embrace, then sent out Twitter messages announcing that he had seen his roommate “making out with a dude.” He set up the camera again two days later and urged others to watch. But by then, Mr. Clementi had seen the Twitter posts and turned off the webcam.

Mr. Clementi, an accomplished violinist from Ridgewood, N.J., checked Mr. Ravi’s Twitter feed 38 times and filed a request for a room change before jumping off the George Washington Bridge the following evening.

The judge had instructed the jury that Mr. Clementi’s suicide was not relevant to the case they were considering. But it loomed over the trial, with his family watching every day’s proceedings from the front row.

The bias intimidation charges against Mr. Ravi doubled the potential prison sentence he would have faced for the invasion of privacy, to 10 years.

He was also convicted of hindering apprehension, and of tampering with a witness and evidence after he tried to cover up his Twitter trail and to convince a friend to tell police that they had seen Mr. Clementi on the webcam by accident.

Mr. Ravi’s lawyers had characterized him as callow but not bigoted, saying he had stumbled into a situation, having a gay roommate, that scared him. This infuriated many gay rights activists, who saw it as another version of the “gay panic” — in which the accused appeal to juries in the hopes that they will relate to a fear that gay men and lesbians might make sexual advances.

In her memo to the judge, the prosecutor had argued that Mr. Ravi had shown no remorse for his crimes. The day after Mr. Clementi committed suicide, Mr. Ravi, who had left Rutgers, texted a friend saying, “How can I convince my mom to let me go back Friday night and get drunk.”