The parents, brother and a male friend of Tyler Clementi, a gay Rutgers University student who committed suicide in 2010 after learning that his date with the friend had been secretly videotaped by his roommate, Dharun Ravi, urged a judge Monday to give Ravi prison time. They made their pleas through victim impact statements read to the packed courtroom where Ravi was to be sentenced.
The man who was with Clementi in the secret videotape -- identified only as M.B. to protect his privacy -- said he believed Ravi had “exploited” his budding relationship with Clementi, 18, when he secretly videotaped them in an intimate encounter in September 2010 in the room that Ravi and Clementi shared. Clementi committed suicide a few days later by throwing himself off the George Washington Bridge.
A jury last March found Ravi, who is now 20, guilty of invasion of privacy and a host of other crimes, including hate crimes, which could bring at least 10 years in prison. Ravi denied wrongdoing and denied allegations he was motivated by anti-gay attitudes toward Clementi.
“I believe Mr. Ravi exploited my budding … relationship with Tyler Clementi in his vain attempt to gain attention and popularity with others,” M.B.’s statement, read by attorney Richard Pompelio, said in part. M.B. wrote that he was “devastated” to learn he had been “placed under a microscope for the sole amusement of Mr. Ravi and his friends,” and that his emotions had not lessened. In fact, he said, they had only intensified.
“I just wanted him to acknowledge that he had done wrong and take responsibility for his conduct,” M.B. said in asking for Ravi to be sentenced to some prison time. He did not specify how much time Ravi should receive. Neither did Clementi's family members.
The statement was one of several made to Judge Glenn Berman in the run-up to the sentencing. After M.B.’s statement, Clementi’s father, Joseph, spoke, as did Clementi’s brother, James, and his mother, Jane, who said Ravi had given her son the cold shoulder from the moment the two young men had met at the start of classes in the fall of 2010.
Joseph Clementi accused Ravi of acting “without a thought” of how his actions might affect his son or his son’s date when he set up the secret video cam. “And he did it in a cold and calculating manner and then he tried to cover it up,” said Clementi, who at one point seemed about to break down but who kept on speaking after briefly halting.
“Mr. Ravi still does not get it, he has no remorse, and he has said he was genuinely surprised that a jury could find him guilty,” Clementi said before his surviving son, James, delivered another impassioned statement tinged with bitterness toward Ravi.
“My family has never heard an apology…the behavior I saw in the courtroom…suggests a complete lack of concern for my brother or the pain inflicted on him,” said James Clementi. “I watched as Dharun slept through court as if it were not something worth staying awake for,” he said of the trial, which ended with the guilty verdicts in March.
“Through it all, I bit my tongue.” But James Clementi added that his brother’s “fate was sealed” from the moment a computer randomly assigned him to share a room with Ravi. “He could never have known the viper’s nest he was walking into,” he said.
Earlier, Berman turned down defense motions for a new trial. One of Ravi’s defense attorneys, Philip Nettl, argued that Clementi’s death had cast an unfair shadow over Ravi’s case, and he said the judge should have reminded jurors that the defendant had not been charged in connection with the suicide.
“The suicide loomed so large above this trial that we always assumed that there would be a strong limiting instruction” to the jury, Nettl said in his motion for a new trial. Berman replied in part: "A defendant in a criminal case is not entitled to a perfect trial, he's entitled to a fair one," Berman said. “I’m convinced … he got a fair one.”
Prosecutors had called for some prison time, though not the maximum sentence of at least 10 years, saying Ravi had showed no remorse for his actions.
While Ravi never was accused of causing Clementi’s death, the circumstances sparked a national debate on bullying and other pressures facing gay youth. Prosecutors during the trial sought to portray Ravi as a homophobic, self-satisfied college freshman who took pleasure in humiliating his shy, sensitive roommate.