Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail by a New Jersey judge today for spying on his roommate's gay tryst. Ravi's freshman roommate Tyler Clementi committed suicide days later.
"I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi," Judge Glenn Berman told the court. "He had no reason to, but I do believe he acted out of colossal insensitivity."
Ravi, 20, must report to Middlesex Adult Correctional Center on May 31 at 9 a.m. for his 30 day jail term. He was also sentenced to three years probation, ordered to complete 300 hours of community service and attend counseling programs for cyber-bullying and alternative lifestyles.
He must also pay a $10,000 assessment to the probation department in increments of $300 per month beginning Aug. 1. The money will go to victims of bias crimes. The judge recommended that Ravi, who was born in India and is here on a green card, not be deported.
"I heard this jury say, 'guilty' 288 times--24 questions, 12 jurors. That's the multiplication," Berman said. "I haven't heard you apologize once."
Berman also berated Ravi by saying that most defendants stand when a judge speaks to them, but told him, "Keep your seat." The judge called Ravi's pre-sentencing letter "unimpressive."
Ravi, who was expected to make a statement to the packed New Brunswick, N.J. courtroom, declined to speak before the sentence was read.
The prosecution, which sought a significant prison term, indicated it will appeal the judge's sentence.
Ravi was convicted of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering and hindering arrest, stemming from his role in activating the webcam to peek at Clementi's date with a man in the dorm room on Sept. 19, 2010. Ravi was also convicted of encouraging others to spy during a second date, on Sept. 21, 2010, and intimidating Clementi for being gay.
Before the judge's sentencing, Ravi's mother delivered an emotional plea for leniency during which she and her son both broke into tears. At the end of her plea, Ravi's mother threw herself on her son, sobbing and hugging him.
"Dharun's dreams are shattered," his mother Sabitha Ravi cried. "And he has been living in hell for the past 20 months. It's hard for me to say that my son is sitting here physically alive in front of everyone...I feel that Dharun has really suffered enough for the past two years in the media."
Sabitha Ravi said that her son lives an isolated life studying, has lost 25 pounds and only eats one meal a day to "suppress his hunger."
"This case has been tried, has been treated and exists today, as if it's a murder case," defense attorney Steve Altman said. He spoke about the need for Ravi to be defended and looked at the Clementi family when he said, "I know that family hates me. I'm a demon to them."
In March, Ravi was found guilty of a bias crime for using a webcam to spy on Clementi.
Clementi's family bitterly asked the judge today to sentence Ravi to prison time.
Clementi's father, Joseph Clementi, told the judge, "One of Tyler's last actions was to check Ravi's Twitter page" and noted that his son checked his roommate's Twitter page 37 times before leaving the Rutgers campus and driving to the George Washington Bridge where he jumped to his death.
Ravi was convicted of a hate crime for using a webcame to spy on Clementi during a sexual liaison with a man identified only as "MB" and announcing what he saw on Twitter. Ravi put out another tweet when he heard Clementi was having a second date with MB.
Joseph Clementi said that Ravi decided his son "wasn't deserving the respect of basic human decency" and "was below him" because Tyler Clementi was gay.
"He did it in a cold calculating manner and then he tried to cover it up," the father, who had to pause to compose himself, said. Clementi's mother Jane Clementi cried in the front row has her husband spoke.
The father accused Ravi of having any "lack of remorse."
Tyler Clementi's mother Jane Clementi recalled the day she helped her "excited" son move into his Rutgers dorm room and the coldness Ravi showed by not getting up from his computer to say hello.
"He never even paused to acknowledge that Tyler was in the room," she said. "He never stopped what he was doing, no greeting, no smile, no recognition, no nothing."
Jane Clementi said that though she initially thought Ravi may have been stressed or busy, she said she realized during trial that that was not the case.
She heard during the trial that Ravi had not reached out to her son on Facebook or via email, but, rather, had used his computer skills to plug Clementi's email address into various computer programs to discover what websites he frequented and to discover that Tyler was gay.
"He never really knew Tyler, not the smart, kind, articulate, humble, funny, talented, caring, thoughtful, generous, trustworthy and dependable person Tyler was," she said. "All he found out was that Tyler was gay."
She called Ravi's actions toward her son "arrogant and mean-spirited."
Clementi's brother, James, told the court, "I watched as Dharun slept through court as if it was not worth" paying attention. "I watched Dharun and his lawyers laugh as if it were a private joke."
Earlier a lawyer for MB read a statement asking for prison time for Ravi because, he said, Ravi has not accepted responsibility for his actions.
"He must serve some type of confinement… To this day he appears to blame me for his conduct," citing Ravi's claim that he spied on his roommate because he feared MB would steal his iPad.
MB said he does not believe, however, that Ravi should be deported.
In recent days, several prominent gay activists have made public pleas for Ravi to not be sent to prison.
The judge began the proceedings today by noting the court had received a box full of petitions seeking a pardon for Ravi.
Some of the petitions were addressed to President Obama, but the judge said the president has no ability to pardon someone for a state crime.
Some of the petitions were addressed to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who would have the authority to pardon someone for a state crime.
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