New Jersey: Dharun Ravi, an Indian-born student convicted on May 21 of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate, is now in a New Jersey jail serving a 30-day sentence. His roommate, Mr Tyler Clementi, committed suicide at Rugters University in New Jersey in September 2010, days after Mr Ravi used a webcam to film him in an intimate encounter with another man, and invited other students to watch.
Mr Ravi, 20, hails from Tamil Nadu and is not a US citizen. He is the son of wealthy immigrants Ravi Pazhani and Sabitha Pazhani. He arrived in the United States at age six and was apparently never naturalised.
His immigrant parents moved first to Woodbridge, and then on to Plainsboro in New Jersey. Mr Pazhani was an executive with different companies in the area.
US media reports say that Mr Ravi came across as a self-absorbed bully after he moved into Rutgers University to study economics in September 2010. In college, Mr Ravi's Twitter feed included "stoned out of my mind" and "found out my room-mate is gay." Using a webcam in the room they shared, Mr Ravi was able to spy on Mr Clementi during a date with a male friend.
In an interview to The Star-Ledger, Mr Ravi later said, "I didn't act out of hate and I wasn't uncomfortable with Tyler being gay."
When Mr Clementi found out he had been spied upon by Mr Ravi, he killed himself by jumping from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010. Mr Ravi was found guilty of charges including bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence.
He faced a possible sentence as long as 10 years in prison after the high profile trial, but Middlesex County Judge Glenn Berman, believing that the counts "do not warrant a prison term" opted to go along with sentencing guidelines and state legislative statutes in handing down his ruling.
"This individual was not convicted of a hate crime. He was convicted of a bias crime and there's a difference. I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi. He had no reason to. But I do believe that he acted out of colossal insensitivity," said Mr Berman.
In the weeks before the tragedy, a text from Mr Ravi to friend and dorm mate Alissa Agarwal refers to him turning on his webcam. "I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."
On September 19, 2010 Mr Ravi rigged his webcam to spy remotely on Mr Clementi having sex with a man, then tweeted about it. "Yes, it's happening again," he tweeted. "Be careful, it could get nasty."
Court records show that Mr Clementi checked Mr Ravi's Twitter feed at least 38 times that week. "I feel that my privacy has been violated," he e-mailed his residence advisor, "And I am extremely uncomfortable sharing a room with someone who would act in this wildly inappropriate manner."
On September 22, 2010, Mr Clementi threw himself off the bridge. On March 16 this year, Mr Ravi was tried and convicted on all 15 counts for his role in the webcam spying incidents. On May 21, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail, three years probation, 300 hours of community service, a 10,000 dollar fine, and counselling on cyber-bullying and alternate lifestyles.
"I do believe he acted out of colossal insensitivity," the judge ruled.
Mr Ravi later said in a statement issued through his lawyers: "I accept responsibility for and regret my thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices that I made on September 19 and 21, 2010. My behaviour 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 apologise to everyone affected by those choices."
Story first published:
June 04, 2012 19:15 IST