Protesters: No Jail for Ex-Student in Webcam Case

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dharun Ravi arrives in court with his lawyer Steven Altman. (Nancy Solomon/WNYC)

The mother of the former Rutgers student convicted of hate crimes in a webcam spying case says her son does not deserve jail time.

Sabitha Ravi told several hundred people at a rally in Trenton that her son Dharun is suffering after being convicted of bias intimidation in March.

She added she believes the media should help her son. "They know he didn't get a fair trial," she said.

Several hundred protesters gathered Monday at the New Jersey State House to show support for a former Rutgers student convicted of bias intimidation and to call attention to what they see as injustices in New Jersey's hate-crime laws.

Ravi was convicted in March of 15 criminal counts, including four charges of bias intimidation, for using his webcam to view a brief live clip of his roommate kissing another man. Most of Ravi's supporters were Indian-American, like he is.

The roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide days after the online peeping in September 2010 and quickly became a symbol of the harm that can be done to young gays.

Ravi's supporters see him as a symbol, too - of the justice system gone awry in search of someone to blame. Ravi could get 10 years in prison when he's sentenced on May 21. He could also face deportation to India, where he was born and remains a citizen.

"If this kid ends up in jail on Monday," said Sandeep Sharma, one of the organizers of the rally, "my faith will be shaken in this country."

Ravi's lawyers have asked a judge to overturn his conviction. Failing that, they say he should not serve any jail time. In court papers, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's office has said that Ravi deserves jail time - though not the 10-year maximum sentence he faces.

The protesters were mostly professionals, some dressed in business suits. They held signs and chanted slogans such as "No jail time," and "Drop all charges." Some held posters quoting former Gov. Jim McGreevey, who is gay, saying Ravi should not be sent to prison.

Sharma said he does not have high hopes for Monday's rally helping keep Ravi from getting a jail sentence, but said it could lead to changes in the state's hate-crime laws. He and some others met with the staffs of several lawmakers earlier Monday to talk about bias intimidation.

One provision was particularly complicated during the trial earlier this year.

On one bias intimidation charge, the jury found that Ravi did not knowingly or intentionally intimidate Clementi or the other man, identified in court only by the initials M.B. But the jury found Clementi reasonably believed that Ravi targeted him because he was gay. On the three other bias-intimidation charges, jurors found that Ravi knowingly or intentionally intimidated his roommate.

"It's so malleable, what counts as a threat?" asked Marc Poirier, a Seton Hall law professor who has been studying hate-crime laws. Poirier also addressed the crowd Monday, as did Bill Dobbs, a New York City libertarian and gay-rights activist who has warned since Clementi's suicide against scapegoating Ravi.

The rally represented a role reversal for some people in central New Jersey's large Indian community.

Pradip Kothari said he was among those who pushed for New Jersey lawmakers to introduce hate-crime legislation more than two decades ago after a 30-year-old Indian-American man, Navroze Mody, was beaten to death at a Hoboken train station in 1987 by a group of so-called anti-Indian "dot-busters."

Kothari, who now owns a travel agency in Edison, said prosecutors didn't use hate-crime laws over the years when his previous building, in Iselin, was vandalized.

"In 22 years," he told the crowd but addressing prosecutors whom he said were unfair, "you didn't find one person to try."



Comments [3]

Dave Makkar from USA


My stand is when Judge Berman has admitted that NJ Hate Crime Statue is "Muddled" than Dharun should not be punished under this law. The Judge pondered out loud how he would instruct the jury to apply it. "I've read the statute and read the statute more times than I can count," Berman said in open court in the absence of the jury. "I've studied it. The statute, to me, is muddled. If I had written it, I would have written it differently. But I didn't write it. The Legislature did." A statute that a qualified Judge can not fully comprehend how an average Joe or Jury can understand it especially when they have been poisoned by biased media reporting based on biased investigation by the Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan's office.

If Judge Berman is honest to his profession and believe in the doctrine of Racial Equality and Equal Justice, he must reject the Jury verdict on May 21, 2012 to order a fresh trial. When he being a qualified and experienced Judge can not understand Hate crime Laws; how the ill-educated jury can understand them?

More over Hate Crime Law makes a nonviolent offense “invasion of privacy” susceptible to a hate crime enhancement, just like murder and assault are. Usually a bias charge is linked to an underlying crime involving violence, like murder, assault, or vehicular homicide. But that’s not the kind of crime Dharun is charged with. He was facing invasion of privacy charges, and the bias charge were linked to that by the biased prosecution under pressure from Politicians, Gay activist, Media and moral police. The poisoned and ill-educated Jury convicted Dharun that Tyler felt he was the victim of bias-motivated intimidation, despite the fact Tyler was not present to tell them about his state of mind.

Tyler’s suicide is not a case of bullying and certainly this is not a hate crime. It is still a case of invasion of privacy in this age of face book and live video streaming of each and everything around us. How much privacy we can expect and how much invasion of privacy we can tolerate, that is the issue we would have to deal with for a better future. Let there be a National public debate on these issues to honor a lost young and brilliant life of a violinist Tyler Clementi rather than punishing Dharun Ravi under bias crimes. That will be a tribute in the memory of Tyler Clementi.

Further I make a humble request to every person who believes in Equal Justice; to demand from the US Justice Department a thorough investigation into the role of County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan and his team of investigators, Media, Law makers and gay activist in Dharun’s prosecution. NJ Hate Crime Laws must be amended to make them acceptable according to Federal Constitution. The present trial must be declared a mistrial and Dharun Ravi deserves a fresh trial away from Middlesex County under the supervision of Federal Prosecutors.

May. 15 2012 04:54 PM

SKV, you're an idiot...the American society corrupted him. Also they were not a jury of his peers..they were Americans influenced by the media looking to save their own souls by sacrificing Dharun Ravi. Ask yourself at 18, would you have turned your back on your gay roommate and an old guy sexing in your dorm?? No one would.

May. 15 2012 03:38 PM

Ravi was found guilty by the unanimous consent of a jury of his peers. He got a fair trial. (Though of course he's free to appeal if he wants to.)

However, I would agree with no jail time if the judge can use the fact of his conviction to simply deport him. Permanently.

He's not a citizen of the United States, and he committed crimes against a citizen. Who wants him?

May. 14 2012 06:04 PM

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