Dharun Ravi Sentence: Prosecutors Plan Appeal, Students React
It was a case that garnered worldwide attention, and that touched on issues such as anti-gay bullying, teen suicide and hate crimes.
Two years later, former Rutgers student Dhaurn Ravi, 20, was sentenced to 30 days in jail for spying on his roommate Tyler Clementi’s intimate encounter with another man.
Ravi, 20, could have gotten 10 years behind bars for his part in a case that burst onto front pages when Tyler Clementi threw himself to his death off the George Washington Bridge.
Instead, Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman gave Ravi a month in jail, placed him on three years’ probation and ordered him to get counseling and pay $10,000 toward a program to help victims of hate crimes.
“Our society has every right to expect zero tolerance for intolerance,” the judge said.
The sentence followed hours of impact statements from both the Ravi and Clementi families.
Joe Clementi said he couldn’t imagine the pain his son was going through in the final days leading up to his death.
“He was a kind, gentle soul who went off to college trying to make the transition from child to young adult, its hard for me to imagine the humilation that he felt.”
His mother, Jane Clementi, said she wanted justice.
“The court needs to show the residents of New Jersey and the entire country that this was not right and not acceptable behavior.”
Ravi’s family said their son had suffered at the hands of the media and that he has spent his days in exile at home.
“Dharun has lost 25 pounds and eats one meal a day, his dreams are shattered and he’s been living in hell for the past twenty months” Sabitha Ravi, Dharun’s mother tearfully told the court and she pleaded for leniency in sentencing.
Ravi’s father said his son had no hatred in his heart and did not hate gays. “He was not raised homophobic.”
Ravi himself declined to speak.
In handing down the sentence, the judge quoted an email from Clementi himself describing Ravi’s conduct as “wildly
At the same time, Berman pointed out that Ravi was not charged in Clementi’s suicide. He said Ravi has spent 20 months in “exile” since his arrest. And he suggested “hate crime” is a misnomer for what Ravi was convicted of: “I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi.”
Berman also spoke to Ravi directly saying he never heard him saying he was sorry.
“I heard this jury say guilty 288 times, 24 questions, 12 jurors…and I haven’t heard you apologize once.”
He also said he has examined the bias intimidation laws in 39 states and found that New Jersey’s is among the broadest. Most, he said, are used only to increase the sentences of people convicted of violent crimes.
The judge said he would recommend Ravi not be deported to his native India. Deportation is still a possibility, but a sentence of a year or more would have been more likely to trigger it.
Ravi was convicted in March of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation on the basis of sexual orientation — an offense widely referred to as
a hate crime — and trying to cover his tracks by destroying text messages and tweets and tampering with a witness.
Reporters followed Ravi and his parents across the street and through a nearby parking garage, but Ravi declined to speak.The Clementi family also shunned reporters, at first requesting a media press conference, then canceling minutes after the sentence was read.
New Jersey gay rights organization Garden State Equality expressed disappointment with the punishment. In a statement, chairman Steven Goldstein suggested that while the maximum would have been an act of “vengeance,” 30 days was too light.
“This was not merely a childhood prank gone awry,” Goldstein said.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said they plan to appeal. “The sentence was not sufficient.”
Lawyers for Ravi had also indicated they may appeal the conviction.
Rutgers Community Reacts
The reaction was mixed on College Avenue, the main street through the center of the New Brunswick campus where the boys were freshmen.
“He deserved some time in jail, but ten years was overkill so I think it was a fair sentence” said Danielle, a Rutgers graduate student.
“I am very happy with the verdict and feel that the sentence was fair” said a family friend of Ravi’s. “I know Dhaurn personally and he will get through this.”
“I believe in the American justice system and this was the correct verdict” said another man, outside the courtroom.
Others felt justice was not served.
“30 days…you can get 30 days in jail for unpaid parking tickets” said Marc, a senior. “I would be really mad if I was the Clementi family, absolutely.”
“I really hope that he learned something from it…I think it was a pretty lenient sentence considering he didn’t seem that apologetic in court” said another student.
Some students are simply happy the trial is over.
“It cast a dark shadow on our school for a very long time, so to have it be finished is good.”