World & Nation

Rutgers webcam case: Dharun Ravi begins controversial sentence

Dharun Ravi reported to the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office to begin serving a 30-day sentence in a New Jersey jail for his conviction over using a webcam to spy on his college roommate during a tryst with a man, officials said Thursday.

Ravi, 20, turned himself in around 12:30 p.m. at the office in New Brunswick, N.J., where he was fingerprinted and photographed. The former Rutgers University student was then taken to the Middlesex County Jail to  serve his time, Sheriff Mildred Scott told reporters.

“This is normal procedure,” she said during the videotaped news conference.

The surrender had been expected after Ravi appeared in court Wednesday to formally agree to begin serving his sentence. Ravi could have remained free while the case and the sentence are under appeal.

With time off for good behavior, Ravi is likely to serve 20 days. In addition to the jail time, he will be on probation for three years and was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service. He was also sentenced to pay $10,000 to an organization dedicated to assisting victims of bias crimes.

In March, a New Jersey jury convicted Ravi of more than a dozen charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, after concluding he had targeted roommate Tyler Clementi because Clementi was gay. Using a webcam in the room they shared, Ravi was able to spy on Clementi during a date with a male friend. When Clementi found out, he killed himself by jumping from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010. Ravi was not charged in the death.

Ravi initially refused to apologize but relented this week and formally said he was sorry for the tragedy, which cast a national spotlight on the issue of bullying, especially against gays.

“I accept responsibility for and regret my thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices that I made on Sept. 19, 2010, and Sept. 21, 2010,” Ravi said in a statement issued through his lawyers this week. “My behavior and actions, which at no time were motivated by hate, bigotry, prejudice or desire to hurt, humiliate or embarrass anyone, were nonetheless the wrong choices and decisions. I apologize to everyone affected by those choices.”

The sentence in the case remains a subject of controversy — and legal appeal. Ravi could have been given up to 10 years in state prison.  Prosecutors argued that they thought the sentencing guidelines called for five years in state prison.

But at hearing this week, Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman, who presided over the trial, said he did not see how justice would be served by giving Ravi a long sentence to be served with hardened criminals.

 “I can’t find it within me to remand this gentlemen to a state prison no matter how I hold it unconscionable his conduct was,” Berman said in court. “I don’t believe that fits this case. I believe he has to be punished. He will be.”

Berman defended the sentence he chose, saying it was fair. He said there was a difference between bias and hate.

“I don’t defend his actions toward Tyler Clementi whatsoever. None. Nor does he,” Berman said. “But I don’t think it was motivated by hatred. And I’ll stand on that.”


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