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May 5, 2012

Dharun Ravi, Rutgers student convicted in webcam spying, seeking probation sentence

This local article concerning an upcoming sentencing in high-profile New Jersey case reports that "lawyers for the Rutgers University student who spied on his gay roommate kissing a man have asked that he receive probation rather than a jail term." Here is more:

In a 33-page motion loaded with positive personal accounts of Dharun Ravi’s character and lack of bias, attorneys urged Judge Glenn Berman to depart from sentencing guidelines that require a jail term for a bias-intimidation conviction.  They argued that the judge could apply a legal doctrine known as “the serious injustice standard” to impose a lighter sentence.

Ravi, 20, of Plainsboro, N.J., is scheduled to be sentenced May 21. He was convicted of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, and several related charges in a trial that attracted international attention.  The media attention, his lawyers argue, produced a distorted picture of Ravi as “the face of cyberbullying and homophobia” after his arrest in October 2010.

Ravi was accused of setting up his laptop computer and streaming webcam images of his dorm roommate, Tyler Clementi, as Clementi engaged in a sexual encounter with a man.... Clementi, 18, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010, days after learning of the spying incident.  His death, while not part of the case against Ravi, became the focal point of the debate about gay-bashing and intimidation.

The motion asking for a lighter sentence includes dozens of comments from friends and family members of Ravi’s who maintain he is not homophobic and had no bias against Clementi.  “Not one person ever perceived of Dharun Ravi as a hatemonger,” his lawyers wrote, noting that the jury found that Ravi had not acted to intimidate Clementi, but that Clementi had perceived Ravi’s actions as intimidating.

Ravi, who has been taking college courses online since withdrawing from Rutgers, has been the subject of “a number of threatening and negative voice mails and e-mails,” his lawyers wrote.  The motion also included a plea from Ravi’s mother, Savitha, who told the court: “When it all started and the media was ripping him apart with misleading facts and the statements of people made about his moral values, he really broke into pieces."...

Lawyers argued that probation was an appropriate sentence given the nature of the case, pointing out, among other things, that bias-intimidation hate-crime legislation was written with the assumption that threats and acts of violence would be prosecuted under the law.  There were no threats and there was no violence in this case, Ravi’s lawyer’s wrote.  “Dharun Ravi lacked hatefulness,” they argued.

They also pointed out that if Ravi is sentenced to a jail term of more than year, he could later be deported.  A native of India who came to the United States with his parents as a 3-year-old, Ravi has permanent-residence status.  That can be revoked.

This AP story about the filing also includes these interesting legal details about Ravi's upcoming sentencing and arguments for probation:

Some prominent gay pundits, including former Gov. Jim McGreevey, also have said publicly that they do not think the Plainsboro resident should be sent to prison. Clementi’s parents issued a statement last year saying Ravi should not be punished “harshly.” Ravi exposed himself to the possibility of prison when he chose to go to trial rather than accept a plea offer in which prosecutors would have recommended no jail time.

A major issue for those who say Ravi should not go to prison is the nature of the four bias intimidation charges of which he was convicted. In considering those charges, jurors were asked to consider not only the defendant’s actions but also his state of mind — and the victim’s. Two of the bias intimidation charges are the only ones he faced that include the presumption of incarceration, which means the judge could sentence him to probation for them, but would have to offer an explanation for deviating from sentencing guidelines.

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The Manhattan based show Gay USA discussed this case and the hosts (both gay, if it needs to be said) are quite wary of the whole thing, noting in part that if the student didn't commit suicide (noting that this person isn't being formally charged in relation to that, but informally, seems that way to them), Ravi probably would have not been charged at all. A gay activist who observed the trial was even more wary about the whole thing, including of hate crime laws that singled out certain groups.

Posted by: Joe | May 5, 2012 11:40:27 AM

he needs to take his sentence and be glad he's not DEAD!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 5, 2012 1:16:10 PM


maybe so but I think the jury deserves some respect. 12 people sat in that room and 12 people disagreed. If "jury nullification" is wrong then it's wrong in both directions. To hell with court of public opinion and especially to hell with the opinion of "activists". Let's give some respect to our system of laws and to the 12 men and women "brave and true".

Posted by: Daniel | May 5, 2012 1:43:28 PM

Daniel makes a good point that the views of those who heard all the evidence first-hand should be given more weight than after-the-facts "activists," whether gay or not.

There is just no way to think about Ravi's stunt other than that it was at best mind-bendingly callous and unfeeling, and at worst, dead-on malicious.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 5, 2012 3:09:45 PM

oh i agree once it's hit the jury then you need to respect a legal verdict! i was just saying if it had been my room he was using a hidden camera in and I caought him he'd have simply been DEAD!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 6, 2012 12:55:40 AM

With respect, can we tone down the rhetoric?

My comment was meant to show the complexity of this case; when groups that push for the sort of laws being enforced here find them questionably applied, it is notable. I'm all for supporting the jury here. The hosts here didn't say the jury was wrong. Once charged, it is quite possible that he was legally guilty under the laws in question. Prosecutorial discretion is still very important here.

In some other case, seriously, want to bet some people will be railing against these "activists" for not showing enough nuance, railing against the state for not doing enough? When I then note that in a case where such stereotypes would seem quite possible to occur that they in fact have a nuanced position, "activists" again are railed against. Can't win, I guess.

Posted by: Joe | May 6, 2012 1:44:20 PM

the problem with this case is that the case was really about the death, while the court and prosecutor engaged in the fiction that it wasn't. if not for the death, no prosecution. if not for the death, the jury wouldn't have convicted.

yes, it is wrong to violate someone's privacy by secretly watching them like he did, and it is even worse when the violation of privacy exposed embarrassing sexual conduct. ravi being held accountable is appropriate, but the punishment was grossly excessive.

juries dont always make the right calls, sometimes they are bound by absurd jury instructions that tie their hands. the prosecutor overcharged the case because it was something in the media headlines. is it really a good use of taxpayer money to waste a prison cell on this guy for being stupid?

if there was any evidence that he knew or should have known that his roommate would take his own life, and we all know from common sense that that is an extremely unlikely outcome. gays get outed all the time, and while it is not a pleasant experience for them, it tends to not be a big deal these days, certainly not big enough to result in suicide.

Posted by: lawguy | May 6, 2012 3:31:35 PM

"...gays get outed all the time, and while it is not a pleasant experience for them, it tends to not be a big deal these days, certainly not big enough to result in suicide."

Liberal "compassion" finally shows itself in its true colors.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 6, 2012 5:51:01 PM

The jury was misinformed. Ravi doesnt deserve any prison time based on what an unstable gay choose to do to. This case has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with political agendas. Ravi should be free. If tyler didnt want to be videoed he could have broke the webcam and reported it to Rutgers administration. This is not a legal issue and ravi was used.

Posted by: louise pelosi | May 8, 2012 7:52:15 PM

Dharun Ravi case is very sensitive for my point view ,and i hoping court is successfully solve this case,

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