A former Rutgers University student who used a webcam to spy on his gay roommate was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail—just a fraction of the maximum—in a case that focused attention on anti-gay bullying, teen suicide, and hate-crime laws in the fast-changing internet age.
Dharun Ravi, 20, was also placed on three years’ probation for his part in an episode that burst onto the front pages after his roommate, Tyler Clementi, threw himself to his death off the George Washington Bridge.
“Our society has every right to expect zero tolerance for intolerance,” Judge Glenn Berman said in imposing far less than the maximum, 10 years behind bars.
In addition, Ravi was ordered to get counseling and pay $10,000 toward a program to help victims of hate crimes.
The judge said he would not recommend Ravi be deported to India, where he was born and remains a citizen.
The New Jersey gay rights organization Garden State Equality expressed disappointment with the punishment. In a statement, chairman Steven Goldstein said that while the maximum would have been too much, the 30-day sentence was close to the other possible extreme, no prison time at all.
“This was not merely a childhood prank gone awry. This was not a crime without bias,” Goldstein said.
Prosecutors had asked that Ravi be sent to prison; they did not say how much time he should get, other than that it did not have to be the maximum.
Ravi, his family, and his lawyers left the courthouse without comment.
He is expected to appeal his conviction. Prosecutors told the judge they are considering appealing the sentence, but they had no immediate comment outside court.
The case began in September 2010 when Ravi’s randomly assigned freshman-year roommate asked Ravi for the room alone so that he and guest could have privacy. Ravi went to a friend’s room and turned on his webcam remotely, and they saw Clementi and his guest kissing.
They told others about it through instant messages and tweets, with Ravi tweeting: “I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”
When Clementi asked for privacy again two days later, Ravi agreed, then told friends how to access his webcam. But this time, the camera was not on when the guest came over.
There was testimony both that Clementi unplugged it and that Ravi himself put it to sleep.