May 24, 2012

May 24, 2012

Rutgers Webcam-Spying Defendant
Sentenced to 30-Day Jail Term

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Thursday and I hope you are having a safe and great week so far. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

Yesterday, I read some news that totally pissed me off! A few months ago, I talked about a student at Rutgers who had caused a young gay man to commit suicide because he broadcasted the young man having consensual sex with another man without his permission. The offending student also alerted people through social media that they would be able to watch the camera feed. The young gay man was so traumatized that he ended up committing suicide. Here is the story written about the outcome of the offending student's court case:

A judge here sentenced Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail on Monday for using a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with a man, a punishment that angered prosecutors and did little to quiet the debate over using laws against hate crimes to fight antigay bias.

His roommate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself in September 2010, two days after discovering that Mr. Ravi had spied on him in their room at Rutgers University, galvanizing national concern about suicide among gay teenagers.

Mr. Ravi had faced up to 10 years in prison after a jury convicted him of all 15 counts against him, which included bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and tampering with a witness and evidence.

Prosecutors vowed to appeal, and the sentence surprised even many who had called for leniency, as it came after an extended scolding by Judge Glenn Berman in Superior Court in Middlesex County.

“I heard this jury say guilty 288 times — 24 questions, 12 jurors, that’s the multiplication,” the judge told Mr. Ravi, recalling the questionnaire jurors filled out in arriving at the verdict. “And I haven’t heard you apologize once.”

“I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi,” the judge told a courtroom packed on one side with supporters of Mr. Ravi and on the other with those of the Clementi family. “I do believe he acted out of colossal insensitivity.”

Prosecutors and Mr. Clementi’s family, who had addressed reporters with relief bordering on buoyancy following the verdict two months ago, canceled a news conference planned for after the sentencing. Mr. Ravi’s family collapsed into an embrace with his lawyers. Just moments earlier, his mother, Sabitha Ravi, had sobbed while imploring the judge to spare her son prison time.

“The media misconstrued the facts to the public and misconceptions were formed,” she said, telling how she watched helplessly as her son sank into despair after he was charged and dropped out of Rutgers, barely eating or leaving the house. “All I could do was hug him and cry.”

At her tears, Mr. Ravi himself broke down crying, the first time since the beginning of the trial that he had publicly shown more than a glimpse of emotion.

Mr. Ravi, 20, was not charged with causing Mr. Clementi’s death, but the suicide hung heavily over the trial, and over the sentencing on Monday. Mr. Clementi’s mother, father and brother spoke before the judge delivered his decision, breaking down occasionally as they recalled his accomplishment and his promise, and the pain of losing him and of reliving the agony of his final days as they endured three weeks of courtroom testimony.

“I cannot imagine the level of rejection, isolation and disdain he must have felt from his peers,” Tyler’s brother James Clementi said. “Dharun never bothered to care about the harm he was doing to my brother’s heart and mind. My family has never heard an apology, an acknowledgment of any wrongdoing.”

His mother, Jane Clementi, also criticized students who knew about the spying from Mr. Ravi’s Twitter feeds. “How could they all go along with such meanness?” she said. “Why didn’t any one of them speak up and try to stop it?”

Judge Berman said he wanted to impose a sentence that was “constructive” and would provide a measure of closure — “though I don’t know how the Clementis will ever get closure,” he said. He said he imposed the jail time for witness and evidence tampering and for lying to the police. But for the bias intimidation convictions, he gave Mr. Ravi three years’ probation.

The judge did not explicitly say why he deviated so far from the maximum sentence. But he said he believed the State Legislature had intended prison time to be attached to crimes of violence, and there had been none.

Mr. Ravi’s lead lawyer, Steven Altman, had earlier read from a presentencing memo by a corrections officer who had interviewed Mr. Ravi and recommended against incarceration.

Mr. Ravi, who came to this country from India as a child, remains a felon and could face deportation. But the judge said he would recommend against that.

Gillian M. Christensen, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency was “in the process of reviewing documents relating to the conviction and sentencing” of Mr. Ravi, but would not comment further.

Some immigration lawyers pointed on Monday to a clause declaring that a legal resident, or green card holder, like Mr. Ravi can be deported if convicted of two or more crimes involving “moral turpitude,” as long as neither crime arose out of a single scheme.

Thomas E. Moseley, an immigration lawyer based in Newark, said that if the immigration authorities “wanted to be really aggressive,” they might argue that the tampering crime was separate from the bias crime.

Judge Berman also sentenced Mr. Ravi to 300 hours of community service, counseling about cyberbullying and what he called “alternate lifestyles,” and approximately $11,000 in fees. Most of the money is to be used to help victims of bias crimes.

Mr. Clementi, an 18-year-old who had recently come out to his parents, and Mr. Ravi were three weeks into their freshman year at Rutgers when Mr. Clementi asked if he could have the room for the evening so he could be alone with a man, whom he had met on a Web site for gay men.

In court, prosecutors presented a long trail of electronic evidence to show how Mr. Ravi had set up a webcam to spy on the men, then gone into a friend’s room and watched. He caught only a glimpse of Mr. Clementi and his visitor in an embrace, then sent out Twitter messages announcing that he had seen his roommate “making out with a dude.” He set up the camera again two days later and urged others to watch. But by then, Mr. Clementi had seen the Twitter posts and turned off the webcam.

Mr. Clementi, an accomplished violinist from Ridgewood, N.J., checked Mr. Ravi’s Twitter feed 38 times and filed a request for a room change — and then jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. In court on Monday, his mother said she feared Mr. Ravi’s Twitter posts were the last thing her son saw before he jumped.

Many gay rights advocates had hailed the jury’s verdict as a bold strike against bias, a message that bullying of gay men and lesbians should not be dismissed as a mere prank.

But other prominent gay commentators argued that while what Mr. Ravi did was repugnant, it was not the kind of sustained or aggressive behavior that constitutes bullying.

The sentence similarly divided them.

Steven Goldstein, the chairman of Garden State Equality, a New Jersey gay rights group that pushed for the state to pass its strict antibullying statutes after Mr. Clementi’s death, said the sentence was lighter than what many shoplifters received.

“We have opposed throwing the book at Dharun Ravi,” Mr. Goldstein said in a statement. “But we have similarly rejected the other extreme, that Ravi should have gotten no jail time at all, and today’s sentencing is closer to that extreme than the other.”

William Dobbs, who had attended rallies supporting Mr. Ravi, said the judge was reflecting the discomfort many gay rights campaigners expressed at the use of hate crimes to prosecute Mr. Ravi.

“The judge had to control a backlash to an out-of-control prosecution,” he said. “The number of charges, the severity and the potential penalties, even the amount of resources devoted to this trial, was out of all proportion to the incident.”

Bruce J. Kaplan, the Middlesex County prosecutor, issued a statement after the sentencing, saying that while his office had not requested the maximum prison term, “it was expected that his conviction on multiple offenses of invading the privacy of two victims on two separate occasions, four counts of bias intimidation against Tyler Clementi, and the cover-up of those crimes would warrant more than a 30-day jail term.”

Still, even some jurors continued to struggle over the appropriate sentence. One, Susan Matiejunas, said she had watched the proceedings on television all morning and was surprised.

“Thirty days is a slap on the wrist,” she said. “Six months to a year would have been more suitable, since we convicted him on so many counts.”

Ms. Matiejunas telephoned later to say she had reconsidered.

“The kid has spent two years in purgatory just waiting for all of this to end,” she said. “I think probably 30 days really is quite enough on top of all that.”

I greatly dispute that the kids has suffered enough. Clementi's parents will be suffering the loss of their child for the rest of their lives. At the very least, I believe Ravi should have been given a jail sentence of a minimum of five years.

But that's my thought. Let me know what you think and drop me a line.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab