Ex-Rutgers student in webcam case to go to jail
By GEOFF MULVIHILL Associated Press May 30, 2012 8:08AM
FILE - In this March 16, 2012 file photo, Dharun Ravi, center, and his father, Ravi Pazhani, leave court in New Brunswick, N.J. Dharun Ravi on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 openly apologized for the first time for using a webcam to spy on a romantic liaison between a man and a roommate who later killed himself, saying he regrets his "thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices." (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A day after apologizing for the first time, a former Rutgers University student convicted of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate gave up his right to remain free on Wednesday while New Jersey prosecutors appeal his 30-day jail sentence.
Dharun Ravi appeared in state court to formally put on the record his decision to report to jail Thursday and waive his right not to be punished twice for the same crime.
His lawyer, Joseph Benedict, said Ravi intends to begin doing community service when he’s out of jail, and will start paying fines on Aug. 1. His sentence includes 300 hours of community service and more than $11,000 in court assessments — $10,000 of it to support groups that assist victims of bias crimes.
The state’s appeal of Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman’s sentence as too lenient had automatically stayed the sentence. Prosecutors were seeking to have Ravi sent to state prison rather than county jail — though not necessarily the 10-year maximum sentence Ravi faced for bias intimidation. Middlesex County First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure said in court Wednesday that she thought a five-year sentence would be appropriate, but said she understands a judge could rightfully order a shorter sentence.
But Ravi announced Tuesday he had decided to start his jail term despite the appeal. He also issued his first public apology while continuing to deny his actions were motivated by hate or bigotry.
Ravi was convicted in March of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and other crimes for the watching a brief live webstream of roommate Tyler Clementi kissing another man in September 2010. Clementi threw himself from New York City’s George Washington Bridge days later after learning of the webcam.
Gay rights advocates held up Clementi an example of the consequences of bullying. Ravi’s supporters say Ravi was not a bully at all, but a college student who made a bad decision — and that the charges were so serious only because of Clementi’s suicide — even though Ravi was not charged with his death.
In his apology issued through a lawyer on Tuesday, Ravi, 20, described his actions as “thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish.”
He said getting his jail term out of the way is “the only way I can go on with my life.”
Clementi’s parents, who had attended all of Ravi’s previous court hearings, were not present Wednesday.
Because Ravi’s sentence is less than a year, it decreases the chances that federal immigration authorities will seek to have him deported to India, where he was born and remains a citizen.
Even though he is heading to jail, Ravi is moving ahead with an appeal of his conviction.
Also on Wednesday, Berman went into more depth on why he thought a 30-day jail sentence was appropriate. He said one key factor was that he wanted to deter others from acting as Ravi did.
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