Ex-Rutgers Student Convicted in Webcam Spy Case to Go to Jail
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
A day after apologizing for the first time, a former Rutgers University student convicted of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate gave up his right to remain free on Wednesday while New Jersey prosecutors appeal his 30-day jail sentence.
Dharun Ravi appeared in state court to formally put on the record his decision to report to jail Thursday and waive his right not to be punished twice for the same crime.
His lawyer, Joseph Benedict, said Ravi intends to begin doing community service when he's out of jail, and will start paying fines on Aug. 1. His sentence includes 300 hours of community service and more than $11,000 in court assessments - $10,000 of it to support groups that assist victims of bias crimes.
Through a lawyer, Ravi issued his most contrite public statement yet on Tuesday in a case that made him a symbol of what his family called an overzealous prosecution and that made his roommate, Tyler Clementi, a prime example of what gay rights advocates said were the consequences of bullying.
"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 his statement. "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."
At Ravi’s sentencing hearing, Judge Glenn Berman criticized Ravi, 20, for not apologizing for his actions, as WNYC reported:
Supreme Court Judge Glenn Berman called Ravi's behavior "cold, calculated and methodically conceived." He said he did not believe Ravi hated roommate Tyler Clementi, but believed he acted "out of colossal insensitivity."
“I haven’t heard you apologize once,” Berman told Ravi, who made no statement as he faced a decade or more in jail.
Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail – a sentence that was considered too lenient by prosecutors. They are appealing the sentence, while Ravi’s lawyer is appealing the verdict that was handed down in March.
He was convicted of 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. Ravi maintains he is innocent.
Ravi has been free while the appeals have been ongoing. In his apology, Ravi noted that his sentence does not have to start until the appeal is decided. "Nevertheless, I decided to accept and hopefully complete the sentence as soon as possible. It’s the only way I can go on with my life," the statement read.
He added he plans to surrender himself to the Middlesex County Correctional Facility on May 31 to start his 30-day sentence.
Former federal prosecutor Marcellus McRae said Ravi may be trying to rebuild his reputation for the future. “Certainly this gesture of saying that I'm going to go and start serving this sentence now even though I can have a bond and defray that may be perceived as a step in that direction," he said.
Once Ravi reports to the facility, he will have a medical and mental exam, de rigueur for incoming inmates, and then he will be assigned a room, according to The Star Ledger.
The jail is blue-green concrete walls and floors with metal-framed bunk beds in a room with a view of razor-wire rimmed chain-linked fences, the Ledger reports.
Ravi will be served breakfast at 5:15 a.m., lunch at 11:30 a.m. and dinner at 5 p.m. Lights out is at 9 p.m., the paper reported.
The timing of the apology was odd, according to former federal prosecutor Robert Mintz. He said statements like that are usually given before sentencing. "If this has any effect at all, it will only have an effect on public opinion, because Ravi was subjected to quite a bit of criticism for never expressing any remorse, even though he was not held responsible or even charged with the death of Tyler Clementi," he said. But Mintz said it's possible Ravi's apology is indicative of a "genuine feeling of remorse."
Pradip "Peter" Kothair, an Indian-American community activist in Edison, N.J., believes Ravi and his family want to move on. "He wants to finish whatever the punishment he got is...and he wants to go on [with] his life," he said.
Annmarie Fertoli and Julianne Welby contributed reporting.