30-day jail term for Rudgers webcam spy

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – A former Rudgers University student convicted of spying with a webcam on his gay room-mate who then committed suicide was sentenced Monday 21 May to 30 days in prison in a US court.

The sentencing of Dharun Ravi, 20, who had filmed Tyler Clementi, 18, kissing another man in his dorm room, and twittering about the incident days before Clementi killed himself, was criticized by both sides in the case. Ravi, an Indian national, could have received up to ten years in jail, but instead was given three years probation in addition to the jail term, and was ordered to get counseling on cyber-bullying and “alternate lifestyles” and to pay $10,000 to help victims of hate crimes.

The prosecution’s lawyer, Bruce Kaplan said he would appeal the New Jersey court decision, saying the jail term was insufficient. A gay-rights organization in the northeastern state, Garden State Equality issued a statement saying that whilst it objected to a ten year term, the 30 day term was not enough. “This was not merely a childhood prank gone awry. This was not a crime without bias”.

Ravi’s lawyer, Steven Alman, said his client had been “demonized by the gay community” and objected to the sentence, complaining that the case was “being treated as if it’s a murder case”.

As he announced the judgment, Judge Glenn Berman said he had not heard Ravi apologize once, and felt that while he did not think he had acted out of hate towards Clementi, he was guilty of “colossal insensitivity”.

The case sparked a debate in the United States on the issues of anti-gay bullying, teenage suicide, hate crime laws and the use of new technology by young users.

Links to other sources: BBC, NPR, Associated Press