Dharun Ravi pleads guilty in new trial on Rutgers webcam case
Tyler Clementi's suicide after roommate Dharun Ravi's actions started a national conversation about cyberbullying and homophobia.
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Dharun Ravi, a former Rutgers University student whose roommate killed himself after being secretly recorded on a web camera, pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted invasion of privacy.
Mr. Ravi's plea comes after a New Jersey appeals court last month threw out the 2012 15-count conviction against him and ordered a new trial on other counts.
The case stemmed from the 2010 death of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after Ravi remotely used his webcam to observe Mr. Clementi's romantic encounter with a young man and share that webcam access on social media.
Clementi's death and the criminal case against Ravi started a national conversation about cyberbullying and homophobia. Clementi's parents formed a foundation to address bullying and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
Ravi was sentenced Thursday to probation plus 30 days in jail, and won't serve any additional time under the plea agreement. His original conviction resulted in a 30-day jail sentence, plus a fine and community service, although he could have gotten up to 10 years in prison.
As The Christian Science Monitor's Mark Trumball wrote at the time:
Perhaps central to the relatively light 30-day jail time was this: Judge Berman made a point of noting that Ravi's actions, however reprehensible, were not violent and that neither he nor the prosecution was using the term "hate crime" to describe them.
"I do not believe [the legislature] envisioned this type of behavior" when it passed the anti-bias statute at the heart of the case, Berman said.
Afterward, his lawyer Steven Altman told reporters outside the courtroom that Ravi "just wants to disappear." Ravi, who now works in IT in New York City, said he felt relieved the case is over, NJ.com reported.
Jurors first heard testimony in 2012 during a three-week trial that in September 2010, Ravi saw his roommate and another man kissing when Ravi used a friend's computer to view a few seconds of live streaming video from the dorm room. The jury heard testimony that Ravi told others about what he saw in person, texts, instant messages, and tweets.
The jury convicted Ravi of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, and other crimes. But his lawyer appealed, citing a 2013 state Supreme Court ruling that focused on the alleged perpetrator's intent as more important than a victim's perception of alleged bias.
The appeals court agreed that the law could be applied retroactively and also ruled that evidence prosecutors used to prove bias "tainted the jury's verdict on the remaining charges, depriving defendant of his constitutional right to a fair trial."
Clementi's parents, Joe and Jane, released a statement Thursday, urging witnesses of cyber bullying, harassment, and humiliation "to become upstanders for those in our society like Tyler, who cannot stand up for themselves."
"Interrupt it, report it, and reach out to victims to offer support," their statement said. "If this had happened in Tyler's case, our lives might be very different today."
The Middlesex County prosecutor's office, which tried the case and argued the appeal, didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment.