Dharun Ravi Sentenced to 30 Days in Rutgers Webcam Trial

Posted May 21, 2012 in Crime Criminal Law by

Dharun Ravi was sentenced to to 30 days in jail today for bias intimidation against Tyler Clementi, his former roommate at Rutgers University. He will start his month-long term on May 31.

Ravi had been on trial for watching a video feed of Clementi and a male guest kissing in their dorm room. Ravi advertised the feed to his friends but did not broadcast or record the encounter. Several days later, Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge after he discovered that Ravi had been spying and gossiping about him. Ravi wasn’t hit with any charges related to Clementi’s death, but rather faced trial for setting out to intimidate his roommate based on his sexual orientation, conduct banned by New Jersey’s hate crime laws.

The trial took place over several weeks earlier this winter. On March 16, the 20 year old was found guilty of a number of charges of bias intimidation. He faced up to 10 years in prison, and could be subject to deportation to his native India since he is not a U.S. citizen.

Jane Clementi, mother of the victim, said at the sentencing that Ravi’s actions were “mean-spirited, they are evil and most important they are against the law.” Ravi’s lawyer countered, saying his client was “being demonized by the gay community.”

Prior to the sentencing today, the judge denied defense requests for acquittal or new trial, mostly based on claims that he had not emphasized to the jury strongly enough that Clementi’s suicide should not have been considered during their deliberations.

Pundits have argued for months about whether Ravi’s conviction is fair, whether a prison term is the proper message to discourage bullying, or whether time behind bars would be too harsh for what could be characterized as a stupid prank that may have unwittingly contributed to a suicide.

Columbia Law Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg argued that Ravi should be held accountable for Clementi’s death just like people who text while driving have to answer for accidents they cause. “It shows the same disregard of human life and human dignity that stems in part from immaturity,” she told the New York Times. “The texters are not texting with the intent of causing someone’s death, but if they cause injury or death, they are held accountable.”

Richard Kim, executive editor of The Nation online, expressed discomfort with the guilty verdict, writing, “there is another kind of injustice done when a life is crudely forced into becoming a symbol of social wrongs, when it is made to carry the burden of a composite reality—anti-gay hate crimes—to which it bears but a schematic and hasty relation.”

Ravi has the option of appealing his conviction, which would delay his jail time. The judge today said he would recommend against Ravi’s deportation.

Do you think Dharun Ravi should have received a stiffer sentence? Share your opinion by leaving a comment below.

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