« Eighth Circuit affirms lengthy (but way below-guideline) prison sentence for "inadvertent" illegal possession of "old hunting ammunition" | Main | Alaska's interesting experiences with circle sentencing »

March 16, 2012

"Ravi found guilty on 24 of 35 charges in webcam case"

The title of this post is the headline of this local report on the high-profile state criminal trial of a Rutgers student that has been taking place in New Jersey.  Here are the basics:

Dharun Ravi has been found guilty of 24 of 35 separate charges by a Superior Court jury here. Following three days of deliberation, the jurors found Ravi guilty of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, attempted invasion of privacy, tampering with physical evidence, hindering apprehension or prosecution, witness tampering and tampering with physical evidence.

Three of the counts carry a possibility of jail time; they are the bias intimidation charges as well as the hindering apprenhension count.  Sentencing has been scheduled for May 21.

In all, the former Rutgers student was charged with 15 counts for using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate’s encounter with another man in their college dorm room in September of 2010.

Media attention at the Middlesex County Courthouse is intense, with more than 100 news gatherers covering the trial. The 12 jurors with three alternates worked their way through a verdict sheet that asked them to decide Ravi’s guilt on 35 different separate questions regarding the 15 counts.  The charges included invasion of privacy, attempted invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, tampering with physical evidence, hindering apprehension or prosecution, witness tampering and tampering with physical evidence....

On Sept. 19, 2010 Ravi was alleged to have briefly spied on Clementi and a man known only as M.B. for a few seconds with Molly Wei, a dorm mate who was a resident across the hall from Ravi.  Ravi was charged with making a second attempt to spy on them two days later. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010.  The trial has drawn national media attention because of discussions it has raised regarding cyber-bullying, misuse of social media and anti-gay bias.

Because New Jersey sentencing law is complicated (thanks in part to Apprendi, which notably came out of New Jersey and involved judicial fact-finding about racial bias to increase a sentence), I have no idea what kinds of sentence(s) Dharun Ravi might be facing.  Because I have seen reports that Ravi might now also need to fear deportation, constitutional gururs can already begin spotting Padilla-related issues along with Apprendi issues in this high-profile case.

Free from even knowing yet what applicable state sentencing law provides, I am very eager to hear from readers about what kind of sentence they think should (or will) be imposed upon Dharun Ravi following these convictions.  I have not followed the case closely enough to have a sense of all the relevant sentencing consideration, but I do sense that the forthcoming sentencing could end up raising a lot of interesting legal and policy issues.  Thus, I suspect this may be just the first post in a series as this case turns toward sentencing.

March 16, 2012 at 01:42 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Ravi found guilty on 24 of 35 charges in webcam case":


The convictions probably preclude this, but I actually think he should face little or no jail time. Sure, what he did was mean and stupid, and probably motivated at least partly by anti-gay animus. It's a tragedy that his room-mate committed suicide. But people do all sorts of crazy stuff at college all the time.

If he had spied on his room-mate kissing a girl, and his roomie had then jumped off a bridge, there is no way he'd be looking at 10 years.

I also don't know if the "intimidation" and "reasonable belief" counts ought to hold water. I don't know about the legal meaning of the word, but to me, "intimidation" means fear of physical harm, not fear of being spied on. And the suicide itself shows that Clementi was not thinking reasonably at the time.

To me, the bottom line is this: even though Ravi was not formally charged in Clementi's death, the charges and convictions appear to be primarily motivated by that death. But Ravi's actions simply do not rise to a level where it would be fair to hold him accountable for that.

As things stand, he appears to be facing much more time than (say) a drunk driver who kills someone. And I don't think that's right.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Mar 16, 2012 3:14:01 PM

Based on what the press reports he is realistically 5-10 years assuming they are not leaving out a crime that carries a mandatory minimum. My best back of the envelope guess is he'll get 7 years with just under 17 months before parole.

My thinking goes something like this. New Jersey actually uses a straight forward sentencing scheme. You start at the mid-range sentence, 7 years for second degree offenses, and then work up or down based on the aggravating and mitigating factors present (obviously within the limitations placed by Apprendi). In exceptional cases a judge may sentence one range lower than the normal range (3-5 years), which, because I know nothing about this case other than what is in the press, I simply couldn't tell you whether or not they are present.

Finally, as far as effective time he'll have to serve, my best guess, assuming a mid-range sentence and no disciplinary infractions and no mandatory minimum conviction not mentioned by the press and presentence jail credit (all big ifs), is roughly 16 months and 18 days according to the parole board's chart of parole eligibility.

There are some programs that might get him to a half way house sooner or might serve to get him onto parole faster, ISP, but due to the immigration issues involved it will take smarter minds than my own to figure out whether he qualifies for them.

Posted by: no comment | Mar 16, 2012 4:02:08 PM


According to this article: "Ravi rejected a plea offer last year that would have resulted in no jail time, six months' probation and several hundred hours of community service. "

That precludes him from a sentence of probation now since he put the government to the expense of the trial.


The article does suggest that maybe the verdict will not stand up on appeal.

Posted by: justmeagain | Mar 16, 2012 8:02:58 PM

I am surprised by the severity of the verdict.

Posted by: Lee | Mar 16, 2012 10:55:40 PM

It's a sad ending for both, but just goes to show how devastating shame can be. This may be one of those cases where the bible says your sins will find you out, just as Billy Graham used to always say, and then what will you do? The enemy of our souls only seeks to kill and destroy. I chose to admit and repent, and it was a good decision indeed.

Posted by: bill | Mar 16, 2012 11:32:45 PM

I am thinking of finding a way to intervene in this case.

1) It is ripe with outcome bias. This is a defense never used before.

2) The suicide is entirely the responsibility of the suicider, and the heterosexual male is being scapegoated, in violation of Fifth Amendment procedural due process.

3) If the judge and prosecutor had shown anti-productive male bias, they should have been disqualified by the defense lawyer.

4) Even if summarily dismissed, it would be practice and a learning experience in trying to derail the feminist train rolling over our nation.

Challenges include standing, injury, bringing the First Amendment right to hear speech, with video being the ultimate in truth, the opposite of defamation. This case is a threat to all hidden recording by the press. The filing may be at an appellate court, rather than this invalid, biased court.

If this happens, I will be keeping people posted. I want to discuss it with my lawyer friends, first.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 17, 2012 1:28:10 AM

The prosecutor is a horrible feminist. She should have been disqualified by the defense prior to trial. Allowing her to proceed is analogous to allowing a hooded KKK to run the trial of a black man in 1912. It is farce, and a disgrace to the judicial system.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 17, 2012 1:34:45 AM

I have dealt with staff of this county. Thugs. I wanted to orchestrate their personal destruction, both prosecutor and judge. However, they gave me everything I wanted in a traffic case after being threatened by me, and I could not proceed. (I was guilty, I knew it, but they still would have deserved what I had planned. Horrible people.)

I recommend that law student attend traffic court. Nothing to do with anything taught in law school.

I also urge all law schools to at least offer an elective in traffic law. This is a branch of the criminal that impacts all adults and adolescents in the US. The defense lawyers in that traffic court were actually potted plants.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 17, 2012 1:42:52 AM

mr. claus, the kkk didn't exist in 1912 :P

erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Mar 17, 2012 7:02:06 AM


Your ignorance shows again. The KKK existed in some form from the 1870's to at least the 1950s and even today. The pictures of black people being lynched were particularly popular in the 1920's and 1930s.

Where was little miss feminist educated? Oh yeah, US public education!

Posted by: albeed | Mar 17, 2012 9:44:50 AM

nice article... keep posting such article...



Posted by: Dropshipper | Mar 17, 2012 2:13:30 PM

The message this case sends to youthful bullies everywhere is unmistakably clear. Never annoy a prosecutor by exercising trial rights.

Posted by: John K | Mar 17, 2012 3:23:13 PM

I actually think the message is a little different. Don't videotape your roommate having sex (twice), then try to embarrass him by spreading the word using social media. I'll even spot you a third--then don't try to evade responsibility for your actions when you broke the law (which he did).

I was in college and did stupid things. None of them had to do with secretly taping private encounters (which is illegal) and then deliberately attempting to embarrass that person (which is malicious). I don't know of anyone who did that--and we were all the same age as Ravi at the time, which legally made us adults.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Mar 18, 2012 2:39:32 PM

Res ipsa --

Nailed it. The idea that this was some college prank like throwing water balloons is comical. "Malicious" is exactly the right word.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 18, 2012 3:27:30 PM

i'm with you. If it had been up to me he'd get the same thing the guy he did this to. DEATH!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 18, 2012 5:20:20 PM

Look, everyone knows that if Ravi is sentenced to a year or more, INS will come after him for deportation. My guess is that no one wants that. Supposedly, the input of the Clementis and MB will be gotten. MB has already said he didn't want prison for Ravi. Given their Christianity, my guess is the Clementis also believe in forgiveness. The judge was aware that the bias intimidation laws were probably unconstitutional, given his statement on them being "muddled." I could see him going for probation. Ultimately, I hope this conviction is overturned because of the overreaching by the state in applying the bias intimidation charges. I'm a former professor at a university in NJ, not Rutgers, though.

Posted by: TRBrody | Mar 18, 2012 5:54:32 PM

John K, get your facts straight. There was no videotaping of someone having sex -- at all. All that was seen was a live webcam view of kissing. It was seen by a total of 4 or 5 students. This is what has driven me crazy about this case. Everyone still believes the erroneous early reports of what happened, and that's why there is probably so much hatred of this kid. Whenever I set someone straight, they wind up with this stunned expression. A 2-second kiss seen by 4 or 5 kids.

Posted by: TRBrody | Mar 18, 2012 5:59:44 PM

One of the most compelling arguments against Communism during the cold war was that friends and neighbors could never be trusted. One must always be on guard. Always.

It was a persistant source of Kitman.

Posted by: George | Mar 18, 2012 8:35:01 PM


I'm assuming that was directed at me, not at John K.

I stand corrected on the sex part...I was taking my information from a recent article that had its facts wrong.

However, the only being seen by 4 or 5 kids part was through no efforts of Ravi. From the LA Times:

"In announcing the verdict, jurors made clear that they believed Ravi targeted Clementi because of his sexual orientation when he set up a webcam and secretly filmed Clementi and a male companion in their dorm room on Sept. 19, 2010. Prosecutors said Ravi planned to film a second date that Clementi had with the man, identified only as M.B., two days later and have a "viewing party" for other students, but that Clementi learned of the spying and turned off the camera."

A viewing party? What kind of sick sh#t is this?

Small wonder that the jury found a hate crime.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Mar 18, 2012 8:43:29 PM

Whether it was kissing or something heavier makes not a particle of difference. Ravi's intent was to humiliate and degrade this kid, which he succeeded in doing.

I really thought our country was past the time when it was acceptable to view gays as lesser creatures, to be tormented for the fun and amusement of others. I guess the part of the country where TRBrody lives didn't get the memo.

A "viewing party" indeed. Personally, I hope Ravi gets deported to Mars. The earth is would be better off without someone carrying in his head such a sick and sadistic temperment.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 18, 2012 11:52:13 PM

Sorry, make that Ketman.

Posted by: George | Mar 19, 2012 12:33:36 AM

i'm with bill here and Ravi should be glad it was this kid. Me you get me mad enough to think about killing myself...trust me YOUR going first!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 19, 2012 1:30:53 AM

albeed, you have your facts scrambled - the KKK was started at the end of the Civil War in 1865 and was disbanded in the 1870s following the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1870 and a crack down by the federal government. The KKK was then reformed - incidentially, purely as a moneymaking venture - in 1915 following the release of The Birth of a Nation. The familiar pointed hoods and white robes actually originated from the movie. That KKK largely disbanded and splintered in the late 1920s after the murder conviction of the Grand Wizard of Indiana D. C. Stephenson for drunkenly raping a White woman causing her to kill herself (Ravi should consider himself lucky - see this relates).

bill: "I really thought our country was past the time when it was acceptable to view gays as lesser creatures"

me: I must have been sleeping when gay marriage was legalized throughout the United States and Christian supremacists stopped screaming that anti-discrimination laws protecting homosexuals were motivated by "anti-Christian" bias. Admittedly the Christian Supremacists have moved on to complaining about birth control (how retro), but there is still a lot of anti-gay bias in the media and in society.

Of course, I do have a question - how many of the people who were mocking the boys for kissing would be cheering if at a party two drunken sorority girls kissed each other - I'm guessing that most of them would.

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Mar 19, 2012 7:39:46 AM

Erika --

You were sleeping during the lesson that not every post is an occasion to attack Christianity. Still, if you want to quote any comment of mine in which I have attacked gays in any way whatever, feel free. Should I wait?

Be that as it may, my debate invitation is still open. Ready to accept?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 19, 2012 12:46:34 PM

Bill, You know that not every Christian believes the same thing, right? Some of us are even liberals ;)

In any case, you said there is no anti-gay bias anymore in this country - as the following news excerpt from today shows that what a very foolish statement:

"The potential substitute bill is HB3621, a comprehensive rewrite of the state's sex education policy, known as the Family Life Curriculum that was drafted by David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

It is sponsored by Rep. Jim Gotto, R-Nashville, and makes sexual abstinence almost the sole focus of education efforts and authorizes lawsuits by parents against teachers who violate the proposed law's provisions.

Last week's move was widely seen as sounding the death knell for "don't say gay." House Speaker Beth Harwell said she did not expect it to pass now.

But Campfield said Friday that such talk was "wishful thinking" by opponents. The senator said he, Hensley and Fowler have discussed the matter and agreed on pushing the "don't say gay" bill — Campfield prefers "don't teach gay" or "classroom protection act" as a label — with a new amendment that incorporates a reference to the state constitution's declaration that marriage must be between a man and a woman."

source: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/mar/19/tennessee-legislatures-social-conservatives-have/?partner=popular

The legislatures mentioned in that article are Christian Supremacists - they are attempting to enshrine their religious beliefs in law. In many cases, their beleifs are way outside of the mainstream of Christianity. Opposing people whose goal is to use a particular interpretation (out of hundreds) of Christianity to impose a theocracy is not attacking Christianity.

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Mar 19, 2012 4:15:32 PM

Erika --

"[Y]ou said there is no anti-gay bias anymore in this country."

That's an outright lie. I said no such thing. Care to apologize?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 19, 2012 5:20:04 PM

bill said above: "I really thought our country was past the time when it was acceptable to view gays as lesser creatures"

me: do you care to revise your answer - or do you want to dig in further?

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Mar 19, 2012 5:40:06 PM

Erika --

Your attempt to twist my condemnation of prejudice against gays inside out is astonishing, even by your standards.

No, I do not care to revise my answer, and I'll be happy to "dig in further" at the debate you keep ducking.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 19, 2012 5:49:50 PM

Erika --

And just in case you want to try some semantic fancy dance: to say something (anti-gay bias, in this instance) is no longer acceptable is hardly to say it no longer exits.

Of course you already knew this.

I'd say it was a nice try, but it wasn't. A nice try can't be so transparent.

P.S. Where would you like to hold the debate?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 19, 2012 5:57:12 PM

well bill considering her twisted stance on sex crimes law...what did you expect!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 20, 2012 2:57:28 AM

bill, you are being deliberately obtuse because you are ignoring that national figures in the media, religion, and politics (including Republican political contender Rick Santorum) have spent huge amounts of time demonizing homosexuals and that according to the laws of many states and our federal government homosexuals are legally second class citizens.

To try to claim that gay bashing is no longer acceptable in such an environment is silly - quite simply the only way you could make such an insane claim is if you were trying to deflect any responsibility of the overall cultural landscape. If you want to end gay bashing the first step needs to be to no longer have our law declare that homosexuals are second class citizens (and in fairness, some conservatives like Dick Cheney and Ted Olsen have been way in front of many liberals on the issue).

In other words, locking up Ravi and saying what a jerk he is accomplishes nothing to get at the underlying problem. If what Ravi did is unacceptable, why are you giving a pass to the underlying culture and laws which treat homosexuals as second class citizens?

Yes, as the continuation of racist hate crimes shows, there will still be isolated racists and criminals - however, such crimes are now thankfully rare compared to their levels when Blacks were legally and culturally second class citizens.

And just because the main focus lately has been on bashing women rather than bashing gays doesn't mean its gone away. It just means that those cultural forces fear women more than homosexuals.

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Mar 20, 2012 6:20:53 AM

bill has just proven that when conservatives claim to pretend about "cultural" causes of crime, it is really just an excuse to bash the poor.

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Mar 20, 2012 6:41:58 AM

Erika --

"bill, you are being deliberately obtuse because you are ignoring that national figures in the media, religion, and politics (including Republican political contender Rick Santorum) have spent huge amounts of time demonizing homosexuals..."

It is hardly obtuse to point out that you lied about what I said, and are now trying to bail yourself out by absurdly attempting to make me responsible for what OTHER people say.

The princpal problem, though, is not that what you're saying is false, nor that your contortions attempting to justify it transparently ridiculous. The problem is that you do this stuff all the time. (That you know you couldn't get away with it in a live debate is one of the main reasons you refuse to engage in one. Let's not be kidding ourselves.)

But now, Erika, I'm going to try something completely different with you. I'm going to try to talk to you like a normal human being, not as a bearer of ideology. I tried this once before with Grits and he just threw it back in my face. But I'll try it with you nonetheless. I doubt it will work, but it might.

When I was a boy, my best friend was a kid I'll call Jimmy. We lived on the same street and were in the same grade all the way through high school.

If you didn't have a best friend when you were a kid, you were deprived of one of the great treasures of life. Jimmy and I spent all the time together. We went camping and hiking together, we went to the swim club, we played cards and board games, we went to the library. When we were young teenagers, we were like two teenage girls (back then, anyway): We talked on the phone endlessly. Really. One or two hour conversations, every night. I have no idea what we found to talk about all that time. But we did, and neither of us wanted to hang up.

We also spent a lot of time together on the weekends when we were in high school. Largely this was because I was such a dud socially, and he wasn't doing any better. I was interested in girls, but they had little or no interest in me that I could ever detect. On those rare occasions when I had a date, I was clueless about how to act, meaning that I seldom got a second date. This made me miserable, all the more so because I was convinced every other boy in school was "getting some." This of course wasn't true, but it's what I thought, and probably what a lot of socially awkward boys think, then and now.

On one of those many dateless Saturday nights, Jimmy came over to my house. My parents went upstairs to bed, and we were watching some movie like "Creature Feature" or one of those things that was around then (the mid-sixties).

Out of the blue, Jimmy turns to me in tears, gasping, shaking and sobbing like I had never heard from anyone in my life. I had no idea what was happening and I didn't know what to do. I was 16 at the time. I was so stunned I don't think I even asked him, "What's wrong?" I just sat there like a dope.

As you will probably have guessed by now, he told me that he had nowhere to turn, and that his life was in ruins because he was, in that awful, self-hating term, a "faggot." (The term "gay" had not yet been invented). He wanted a classmate we both knew, but of course he couldn't even approach him. In those days, even to be rumored to be gay, much less admit it, was the quick path to exile and misery.

I was confused, frightened and, most of all, frozen. My view of gays was what most teenage boys' view was (and is): That they were doing disgusting stuff I wanted nothing to do with; that they were not really men or even male; and that they belonged somewhere else. And there was this too: Knowing my own many weaknesses and failures with girls, and knowing deep down that I had so much affection for him, Jimmy's now-confessed homosexuality was something I experienced as a threat to my own sexuality. I was mad, and at a loss, that he would do this to me.

So as he lay sobbing on my parents couch, with me kind of involuntarily holding him, my first instinct -- to the extent I knew what to do at all, which was next to zero -- was to tell him that I didn't understand it, that this was not something I knew about or wanted anything to do with, and that I was sorry, but it was time for him to leave.

But then something happened. In that moment, I now see in retrospect, I became an adult. I had to come face to face with who I was, and I had to take responsibility for someone else's life and heart. I was more frightened than I have ever been, before or since.

From someplace in me I had never met before, I told Jimmy, in a firm but not an angry voice, to turn his head up and look at me, which he did. I then spoke the nine most important words I have ever said to another human being: "I love you and there's nothing wrong with you."

I then burst into tears. I did not do this because I thoght I had done anything good or anything bad. It was nothing more than this: I was a not-very-mature 16 year-old boy, I had gone way out on a limb, I was in over my head, and I couldn't handle it.

I have never been the same since that night. And almost 50 years later, and with a lot of water under the bridge on both sides, Jimmy is still my best friend. There is no trust in this world like the trust that exists between us.


So Erika, next time, before you assume what my views are about something, please ask first.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 20, 2012 3:12:24 PM

ouch bill. i'm sure that was a very rough moment for you. Glad you were able to rise above the normal teenage impulse to attack something you did not understand and instead confort someone who at that time needed it the most!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 20, 2012 5:11:09 PM


I obviously misunderstood the point that you were trying to make and now realize that we are almost undoubtably on the same side on the issue of ending legal discrimination against homosexuals so there is no sense for us to fight about this.

Incidentially, I feel so passoniate about the subject because my favorite Pastor ever who helped me a lot spirtually when I was vulernable as a teenager lost her job due to opening the doors of the church to homosexuals and daring to support gay marriage in the South. She is someone who really lives the teachings of Jesus of Narareth and my church got rid of her (needless to say, I found another church). Its pure insanity to have so much hate of others because they are different.

Please accept my apology :)

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Mar 20, 2012 6:20:13 PM

rodsmith --

One of the great, and scary, things about being a teenager is that you find out who you are, and you can get surprised.

Thanks for your kind words.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 20, 2012 6:40:51 PM

Erika --

Apology accepted with gratitude. You and I are about as far apart as two people get politically, but there is an actual, real live human being residing in each of us. I will try to remember this fact for the future.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 20, 2012 6:44:04 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB