Days after asking to have his conviction overturned, lawyers for the Rutgers University student who spied on his gay roommate kissing a man have asked that he receive probation rather than a jail term.
In a 33-page motion loaded with positive personal accounts of Dharun Ravi's character and lack of bias, attorneys urged Judge Glenn Berman to depart from sentencing guidelines that require a jail term for a bias-intimidation conviction. They argued that the judge could apply a legal doctrine known as "the serious injustice standard" to impose a lighter sentence.
Ravi, 20, of Plainsboro, N.J., is scheduled to be sentenced May 21. He was convicted of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, and several related charges in a trial that attracted international attention.
The media attention, his lawyers argue, produced a distorted picture of Ravi as "the face of cyberbullying and homophobia" after his arrest in October 2010.
Ravi was accused of setting up his laptop computer and streaming webcam images of his dorm roommate, Tyler Clementi, as Clementi engaged in a sexual encounter with a man.
Testimony during Ravi's trial indicated that a handful of students in the dorm on Rutgers' Piscataway campus viewed the web stream for a few seconds. Clementi was seen embracing or kissing the man, identified only as M.B.
Clementi, 18, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010, days after learning of the spying incident. His death, while not part of the case against Ravi, became the focal point of the debate about gay-bashing and intimidation.
The motion asking for a lighter sentence includes dozens of comments from friends and family members of Ravi's who maintain he is not homophobic and had no bias against Clementi.
"Not one person ever perceived of Dharun Ravi as a hatemonger," his lawyers wrote, noting that the jury found that Ravi had not acted to intimidate Clementi, but that Clementi had perceived Ravi's actions as intimidating.
Ravi, who has been taking college courses online since withdrawing from Rutgers, has been the subject of "a number of threatening and negative voice mails and e-mails," his lawyers wrote.
The motion also included a plea from Ravi's mother, Savitha, who told the court: "When it all started and the media was ripping him apart with misleading facts and the statements of people made about his moral values, he really broke into pieces.
"He was barely 18 and entering into adulthood, he couldn't lay down in my lap and cry," she said.
Lawyers argued that probation was an appropriate sentence given the nature of the case, pointing out, among other things, that bias-intimidation hate-crime legislation was written with the assumption that threats and acts of violence would be prosecuted under the law. There were no threats and there was no violence in this case, Ravi's lawyer's wrote.
"Dharun Ravi lacked hatefulness," they argued.
They also pointed out that if Ravi is sentenced to a jail term of more than year, he could later be deported. A native of India who came to the United States with his parents as a 3-year-old, Ravi has permanent-residence status. That can be revoked.