Prosecutors seek prison time in Rutgers hate crime case

NEW YORK Thu May 10, 2012 5:03pm EDT

Dharun Ravi (L), a former Rutgers University student charged with bias intimidation, sits with lead defense attorney Steven Altman while awaiting a verdict in his trial at the Superior Court of New Jersey in Middlesex County, New Brunswick, New Jersey March 16, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Dharun Ravi (L), a former Rutgers University student charged with bias intimidation, sits with lead defense attorney Steven Altman while awaiting a verdict in his trial at the Superior Court of New Jersey in Middlesex County, New Brunswick, New Jersey March 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Prosecutors on Thursday recommended a former Rutgers University student be sentenced to prison, but not the maximum term of 10 years, for his hate crimes conviction because he "shows no remorse" for spying on his roommate's gay encounter.

Tyler Clementi, 18, killed himself three days after learning his September 2010 tryst with an older man was seen by a computer-mounted camera his roommate Dharun Ravi had set up in the dorm room the two shared.

Clementi's fatal leap off the George Washington Bridge focused a national spotlight on gay bullying and teen suicide.

The Middlesex County, New Jersey, Prosecutor's Office said the recommendation for prison time was supported by Clementi's family and the older man, identified only as "M.B."

A jury in March convicted Ravi of hate crimes for spying on the encounter through a webcam, and for attempting to get others to do the same two days later when M.B. visited again. He was not charged with causing Clementi's death.

Ravi, 20, was found guilty of all 15 charges against him, including bias intimidation, commonly called a hate crime.

At his sentencing on May 21 in Middlesex County Superior Court, Ravi faces a possible 10 years in prison. Ravi, an Indian citizen who grew up in the United States, also faces possible deportation.

The defense has asked for probation for Ravi, who has no previous criminal record. The defense also is appealing the verdict and seeking a new trial.

Julia McClure, the lead prosecutor in the case, asked for "a period of imprisonment" in her sentencing brief but is "not asking the court to sentence defendant Dharun Ravi to the maximum sentences."

McClure wrote that Ravi "has failed to accept any degree of responsibility for the numerous criminal acts he committed, and shows no remorse for the same, despite significant evidence pointing directly at him."

She said that since Ravi carried out "planned, malicious and continued criminal conduct" over a period of several days, there were no extraordinary circumstances to justify giving him anything less than the standard prison sentence associated with his convictions.

Ravi's imprisonment would serve as a deterrent to other potential offenders, she said.

M.B.'s lawyer Richard Pompelio said in an interview on Thursday that M.B. also believed Ravi's sentence should include "some form of incarceration."

M.B. found the media interviews Ravi gave after his conviction were "disconcerting" and showed little remorse or willingness to take responsibility for the crimes, Pompelio said.

"There was an indication that he was still blaming my client to certain degree for the situation that (Ravi) ended up putting himself in. I don't think that bodes well for him," he said.

Ravi's lawyers have argued that the judge did not properly instruct the jury, and that his conviction for bias intimidation was an "extraordinary and unprecedented" use of hate crime laws, typically used to prosecute violent crimes.

A lawyer for the Clementi family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ravi's lawyers also did not immediately respond.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Mohammad Zargham)

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