Guilty on all counts
Former University student?Dharun Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison and possible deportation for spying on his former roommate, Tyler Clementi, in two separate incidents in September 2010. Ravi turned down two plea deals, including one without jail time
Dharun Ravi kicked the garbage can outside the Middlesex County Courthouse as he headed toward his car Friday after being found guilty of privacy invasion, bias intimidation of Tyler Clementi, tampering physical evidence, hindering physical evidence and tampering with a witness.
Steve Altman, Ravi’s attorney said Ravi was playing a prank when he viewed Clementi, his roommate, and his male companion, only identified as M.B., through his computer’s webcam.
Clementi, 18, realized Ravi was spying on him. Shortly after the spying incidents, he committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010.
Ravi, a former University student was not “a bigot” but an “18-year-old boy” who did not know “how to deal” with his roommate being gay, Altman said. Ravi’s boyish prank was not established with any criminal intention rather just a college prank, he said.
“He was a boy,” Altman said in his opening statement on Feb. 24. “[What] you need to do is understand the dynamics of what occurred, close your eyes and look back as to how it existed.”
But the jury did not share Altman’s perspective, finding Ravi guilty on all 15 counts held against him, including two counts of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation of Clementi. Ravi was not charged in connection with Clementi’s suicide.
Ravi, 20, faces up to 10 years in prison and may face deportation to India, where he was born and holds citizenship.
Ravi was given two opportunities to accept plea deals. In October 2011, Ravi turned down a three-to-five-year jail sentence. In December 2011, he rejected the opportunity to avoid jail time and turned down a plea bargain of 600 community service hours and sensitivity training.
Ravi’s father influenced his son’s decision to turn down the plea bargain, according to an article in The Star-Ledger. Ravi’s father said he did not believe his son was a hateful person and turned down the plea bargain “on principle,” according to the article.
Three months later, Ravi had run out of options.
Ravi kept pokerfaced throughout most of the trial even as the jury found him guilty of all counts. After the verdict, Altman told The Star-Ledger outside the courtroom they would be requesting an appeal.
Ravi said in a Sept. 23, 2010 interrogation with Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office investigator Michael Daniewicz that he thought he violated Clementi’s privacy.
Ravi said in the interrogation, which was recorded and played in court, that the webcam was set up so he could view his possessions in his room.
“I was little creeped out,” Ravi said in the video. “I just got a bad vibe from him.”
The use of the webcam was legal, Altman said, but Judge Glenn Berman said if Ravi were actually concerned for his belongings, he would have pointed the webcam toward the door, not Clementi’s bed.
Lokesh Ojha, a University student and one of Ravi’s friends from Davidson Hall, said in his testimony he helped Ravi position the webcam, but Ojha also admitted in the same testimony that he lied to police in his initial statements.
Multiple student witnesses and Ravi’s family friends testified that Ravi never expressed any malice toward gays or homosexuality in general.
Ravi was “uncomfortable” with his roommate, said Geoffrey Irving, a former University Ultimate Frisbee captain, in his testimony.
In an instant-message exchanged between Ravi and his friend Michelle Huang, Ravi wrote “Yeah keep the gays away” and that he “so creeped out” after watching Clementi and M.B. kissing.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said trial proceedings referred heavily to technology, including iChat, AOL Instant Messenger and text messaging, as well as testimony from residence hall members and friends.
“We did not have Tyler [here] to tell us in his own words what happened,” Kaplan said. But with the effort of the prosecutor’s office, as well all investigators involved, they were able to gather evidence and protect the identity of M.B.
A notification will be sent to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement concerning immigration actions for Ravi, Kaplan said.
The Middlesex County Courthouse will release a further statement at a later time, he said.
University spokesman E.J. Miranda said in a statement that this tragedy has not only touched the University community, but the global community.
“Freedom of expression, tolerance, the right to personal privacy and the open discussion of ideas are integral parts of any university community,” Miranda said in the statement. “This sad incident should make us all pause to recognize the importance of civility and mutual respect in the way we live, work and communicate with others.”