Prosecution demands jail for Rutgers student, but not the max

Posted: May 11, 2012

Prosecutors have asked a Superior Court judge in Middlesex County, N.J., to sentence Dharun Ravi to prison for bias intimidation and a series of related charges in the Rutgers University webcam spying case.

Ravi’s convictions for live-streaming his gay college roommate’s having an intimate encounter with a man and hindering the criminal investigation warrant jail time, First Assistant County Prosecutor Julia L. McClure argued in a 14-page memo and a supporting document filed Thursday. But, she said, neither her office nor the families of the victims suggest that the maximum 10-year sentence should be imposed.

Ravi “has failed to accept any degree of responsibility for the numerous criminal acts he committed,” McClure wrote, “and shows no remorse for same, despite significant evidence pointing directly at him.”

She noted that he rejected two plea deals prior to his trial, including one that would have resulted in 600 hours of community service instead of prison, plus mandatory counseling associated with cyberbullying.

Ravi, 20, of Plainsboro, N.J., was convicted in March of all 15 counts he faced — including four counts of bias intimidation, a hate crime — in a highly charged case that attracted wide attention.

He was charged with spying on Tyler Clementi’s kissing a man in their dorm room in September 2010. Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge days after learning that Ravi had set up his laptop to view him with his guest, who has been identified only as M.B. The second man also is considered a victim in the case.

Ravi is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Glenn Berman on May 21 for invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, tampering with evidence, and hindering apprehension.

While Clementi’s death was not connected to any of the charges, it turned Ravi’s prosecution into a topic of international debate about cyberbullying and the problems faced by gay youths. Ravi’s lawyers contended that he became a scapegoat and that that distorted media coverage contributed to his conviction.

Ravi, who came to the United States with his parents from India as a 3-year-old, also faces possible deportation. McClure noted in her memo that when proposing the plea deals, her office also promised to assist Ravi in avoiding deportation.

“The defendant rejected the state’s plea offer and made no counteroffer,” she wrote, noting that he opted for a jury trial. The outcome of that trial warrants a jail term, she said.

She said Ravi was guilty of “purposeful, calculated, knowing and malicious conduct,” and had displayed a “callous and arrogant attitude.”

The prosecution’s memo comes a week after defense attorneys asked Berman either to overturn Ravi’s conviction or grant him a new trial, arguing that the jury had erred and that the evidence did not support the convictions. In a separate motion, they asked the judge to depart from sentencing guidelines and impose probation rather than a jail term.

A conviction for bias intimidation, a second-degree criminal offense, usually results in a jail term. Hindering an investigation is also a second-degree offense that usually brings jail time. But Ravi’s lawyers argued that the circumstances in the Rutgers case were exceptional.

Ravi was convicted of spying on Clementi and the other man on Sept. 19, 2010, and of attempting to spy on them again on Sept. 21. Testimony and evidence at trial indicated that he set up his laptop in the room the freshmen shared on the university’s Piscataway campus, though Ravi has said he did not know the encounter would be sexual.

From another dorm room, he and several others observed the pair during viewings that lasted only seconds, according to students who testified for the prosecution.

Clementi, 18, of Ridgewood, N.J., committed suicide on Sept. 22, less than a day after he had filed a request with Rutgers officials to change his dorm room, citing Ravi’s “wildly inappropriate behavior.”

Ravi never intended to intimidate Clementi or harass him because of his sexual orientation, his lawyers argued during the trial and in their post-conviction motions. They conceded that their client’s actions were immature and “stupid,” but argued they were not criminal.

They pointed out that in a split decision in each of the four bias-intimidation counts, the jury found that while Clementi believed he was targeted because he was gay, Ravi had not set out to intimidate him.

Contact George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or ganastasia@phillynews.com.

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