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30-day sentence in roommate webcam spy case

Posted at 12:48 PM, May 21, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-21 13:17:46-04

(CNN) — A New Jersey judge on Monday sentenced Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail for spying on and intimidating his gay Rutgers University roommate, Tyler Clementi, who then killed himself by jumping off New York’s George Washington Bridge in September 2010. Ravi will be on probation for three years.

The September 2010 death of Tyler Clementi, and Ravi’s trial this year, thrust the issue of cyberbullying and prejudices against homosexuals into the national spotlight.

Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, plunged to his death in the Hudson River after learning that Ravi had secretly spied via a webcam as Clementi kissed another man.

In the months that followed, President Barack Obama released a videotaped message condemning bullying, while New Jersey legislators enacted stricter laws to protect against it in schools.

Ravi’s sentencing hearing stretched to more than two hours Monday and was punctuated by emotional victim impact statements offered by Clementi’s parents and brother.

“My son Tyler was a kind and gentle soul,” Joe Clementi said of his son. “… Nobody other than Tyler understood how vulnerable he was, but the fact is that he was very vulnerable — and he was shaken by the cold, criminal actions of his roommate.”

James Clementi recalled his brother was excited about attending college. "He could never have known the viper's nest he was walking into," he said.

Family members blasted Ravi for showing no remorse. "I have often found myself wondering if Dharun Ravi is even capable of empathizing with another person," James Clementi said.

A victim impact statement was also read on behalf of the man involved in the videotaped encounter, identified only as "M.B."

"I do not mind that Mr. Ravi has never apologized to me for what he did and said, but I do wonder if it ever has entered his mind that he has caused me a great deal of pain and yet he knows nothing about me," the statement said.

Before the statements were offered, Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman denied defense motions for acquittal and requesting a new trial.

Ravi, who was studying on a visa at the New Jersey university at the time of the incident, turned down a plea deal offered by Middlesex County prosecutors.

Under the terms of that offer, he would have avoided jail time in exchange for undergoing counseling, doing 600 hours of community service and disposing of any information that could identify the man who appeared in the Web video with Clementi.

Prosecutors also offered to help Ravi avoid deportation, though they said they could not guarantee it.

That set the stage for the trial, during which prosecutors argued that Ravi tried to embarrass Clementi because he was gay and that his actions were motivated by a desire to intimidate the Ridgewood, New Jersey, native expressly because of his sexual orientation.

"These acts were purposeful, they were intentional, and they were planned," prosecutor Julia L. McClure told the jury on the first day of the trial. Ravi "was bothered by Tyler Clementi's sexual orientation," she later said more bluntly.

Ravi's attorneys countered by saying that their client acted thoughtlessly, portraying him as an immature college student who made a mistake, and that his actions were not based on homophobia.

After more than three weeks in court, a jury on March 16 convicted Ravi of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, hindering apprehension and tampering with physical evidence.

Days after his conviction, Ravi told ABC television's "20/20" that he thought Clementi understood he "wasn't trying to intimidate him and scare him because he was gay." He also criticized how the story of what happened was portrayed.

"I felt like I was being used by everybody," said Ravi, who did not testify on his own behalf. "They were taking revenge on me, even though what they think happened isn't what happened."