Ex-Rutgers student in webcam case to go to jail

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.

FILE - In this March 16, 2012 file photo, Dharun Ravi, center, and his father, Ravi Pazhani, leave court in New Brunswick, N.J. Dharun Ravi on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 openly apologized for the first time for using a webcam to spy on a romantic liaison between a man and a roommate who later killed himself, saying he regrets his "thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices." (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — 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.

Ravi spoke in court only to give brief replies to questions from the judge and his lawyer and did not amplify the apology he gave a day earlier in a two-paragraph statement sent to reporters.

The state's appeal of Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman's sentence as too lenient had automatically stayed the sentence. Prosecutors were seeking to have Ravi sent to state prison rather than county jail — though not necessarily the 10-year maximum sentence Ravi faced for bias intimidation. Middlesex County First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure said in court Wednesday that she thought a five-year sentence would be appropriate, but said she understands a judge could rightfully order a shorter sentence.

But Ravi announced Tuesday he had decided to start his jail term despite the appeal. He also issued his first public apology while continuing to deny his actions were motivated by hate or bigotry.

Ravi was convicted in March of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and other crimes for the watching a brief live webstream of roommate Tyler Clementi kissing another man in September 2010. Clementi threw himself from New York City's George Washington Bridge days later after learning of the webcam.

Gay rights advocates held up Clementi an example of the consequences of bullying. Ravi's supporters say Ravi was not a bully at all, but a college student who made a bad decision — and that the charges were so serious only because of Clementi's suicide — even though Ravi was not charged with his death.

In his apology issued through a lawyer on Tuesday, Ravi, 20, described his actions as "thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish."

He said getting his jail term out of the way is "the only way I can go on with my life."

Clementi's parents, who had attended all of Ravi's previous court hearings, were not present Wednesday.

Because Ravi's sentence is less than a year, it decreases the chances that federal immigration authorities will seek to have him deported to India, where he was born and remains a citizen.

Even though he is heading to jail, Ravi is moving ahead with an appeal of his conviction, arguing that he is innocent.

In most cases, New Jersey county jail inmates with 30-day sentences automatically have them reduced by 10 days for good behavior. A warden at Middlesex County Jail was not immedialey available Wednesday to say whether that would apply to Ravi.

Also on Wednesday, Berman went into more depth on why he thought a 30-day jail sentence was served the interest of justice. "I know people disagree," he said. "All you've got to do is look at my in-box."

Berman said he wanted to explain his sentence further in part to help build a record for appeals court judges to use.

Berman reiterated something he said last week when he sentenced Ravi: Even though bias intimidation is usually referred to as a hate-crime, he does not believe that title fits this case. "I don't defend his actions against Tyler Clementi, nor does he," Berman said. "I don't think it was motivated by hatred, and I'll stand on that."

That, he said, is one reason, a longer sentence would be inappropriate.

"I can't find it in me to remand him to state prison that houses people convicted of offenses such as murder, armed robbery and rape," Berman said. "I don't believe that fits this case. I believe he has to be punished and he will be."

Berman said he believed the jail sentence would deter others from acting as Ravi did.

He also said he saw the $10,000 he ordered Ravi to pay to a group for bias-crime victims as a major part of the punishment.

___

Follow Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill
Associated Press
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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