NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Dharun Ravi, the ex-Rutgers student whose spying may have led to the unfortunate suicide of his roommate, pled guilty after cutting a deal that will allow him to avoid another prosecution and put an end to the prolonged criminal matter.
Ravi had previously been convicted by a jury on 15 different counts in 2012, and already served a brief jail sentence.
But three years later the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state’s bias intimidation law, which was responsible for some of Ravi’s convictions, was unconstitutional.
That court ruled that the evidence presented in relation to those charges “tainted” the case on the other charges, and ordered a re-trial.
On October 27, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) announced Ravi had admitted to being “responsible for attempting to activate a webcam in his Rutgers University dorm room to spy on his roommate and another male.”
The statement credited Middlesex County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Christie Bevacqua with negotiating the plea deal that will prevent another trial that would be sure to attract significant media attention.
Now 24 years old and working in New York City, Ravi pled guilty to a single third-degree charge of “attempted invasion of privacy,” and was sentenced to the time he had already served: two-thirds of a 30-day jail sentence.
Judge Joseph Paone also fined Ravi $10,000, placed him on probation for three years, and ordered him to serve 300 hours of community service and to “participate in cyberbullying counselling.”
The penalties mirrored those that former Judge Glenn Berman had imposed after the 2012 trial, and authorities noted that they have already been fulfilled by the defendant.
“Ravi subsequently satisfied the penalties and served the sentence, although he was released from the county jail after 20 days because of good behavior,” read a statement from the MCPO, which was obtained by New Brunswick Today despite all of our reporters being removed from the agency’s press list earlier this year.
Had the case led to another trial and Ravi were convicted for a second time, the court would have been prohibited from imposing any sentence that was more severe than the original sentencing.
The case had dragged on since 2010, when Ravi’s roommate was found dead after leaping from the George Washington Bridge.
Criminal charges were first brought against Ravi and one of his acquaintances from West Windsor/Plainsboro North High School shortly thereafter.
The high-profile case galvanized opponents of bullying and advocates for gay rights, and led to Rutgers making significant changes in how it runs its on-campus housing program, one of the nation’s largest.
It also led to a trial that attracted more attention than any other to take place at the Middlesex County Courthouse in recent memory.
The MCPO announcement referred to Ravi by his full name, and called him a “former Plainsboro man,” while the victim of the spying, the late Tyler Clementi, was referred to only as “T.C.”
Ravi and Clementi had been roommates for just three weeks, and both were still making the adjustment to attending Rutgers and living on their own for the first time.
But Ravi was apparently concerned that his roommate might be a homosexual, and used his laptop to spy on him during what turned out to be a sexual encounter with another man.
However, the criminal charge Ravi pled guilty to stems from a second incident, where he admitted “he tried to activate a camera in his dorm room on September 21, 2010, believing that his roommate… and another male, were going to engage in sexual activity.”
“Ravi also admitted he invited other people to observe the activity,” read the MCPO statement.
The case was handled by a different Judge and a different County Prosecutor than the 2012 trial. Ravi continued to be represented by Steven Altman of the powerful Benedict & Altman firm.
The office of Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey had filed a “motion to reconsider” on September 16, shortly after the Appellate Division ordered the re-trial.
“The prosecutor’s office disagreed with the Appellate Division’s characterization that the prosecutor’s office conceded all bias charges should be overturned based on a recent court case,” read the agency’s October 27 press release.
On October 11, the Appellate Division rejected the MCPO’s motion, but “corrected the record,” according to the statement.
Carey was quoted as saying that the plea deal “was a reasonable way to resolve the case in view of the appellate court decision.”
“Our sympathies remain with the victim’s family, which continues to work to protect our at-risk youth,” said Carey.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.