Student in webcam case opts to start sentence early

NEW YORK Tue May 29, 2012 7:07pm EDT

Dharun Ravi stands alone following a sentencing hearing for his conviction in using a webcam to invade the privacy of his roommate, Tyler Clementi, and another man in their college dorm room, in New Brunswick, New Jersey May 21, 2012. The former Rutgers University student was sentenced to 30 days in prison for bias crimes after he spied on his roommate's gay encounter in a case that drew national attention to bullying. REUTERS/Lee Celano

Dharun Ravi stands alone following a sentencing hearing for his conviction in using a webcam to invade the privacy of his roommate, Tyler Clementi, and another man in their college dorm room, in New Brunswick, New Jersey May 21, 2012. The former Rutgers University student was sentenced to 30 days in prison for bias crimes after he spied on his roommate's gay encounter in a case that drew national attention to bullying.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Celano

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The former Rutgers University student convicted of bias crimes for spying on his roommate's gay encounter plans to begin his 30-day jail sentence this week, he said on Tuesday, even though an appeal meant he could have delayed his surrender.

Dharun Ravi, 20, issued a statement apologizing for "the wrong choices and decisions" he made and said he had "decided to accept and hopefully complete the sentence as soon as possible."

"It's the only way I can go on with my life," he said in a statement issued through his lawyer.

He also admitted to "thoughtless" behavior in September 2010, when he used a computer-mounted webcam to look at an encounter in his room between his freshman roommate, Tyler Clementi, and an older man, and later used social media in an unsuccessful attempt to encourage others watch a second date between the two men.

The incident made international headlines after Clementi, 18, committed suicide a few days later by jumping off the George Washington bridge. Although the suicide overshadowed the case, Ravi was not charged with playing any role in Clementi's death.

In March, a jury at Middlesex County Superior Court in New Jersey found Ravi guilty on all 15 counts with which he was charged, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and witness tampering.

Judge Glenn Berman sentenced him this month to 30 days in county jail, three years of probation, counseling and 300 hours of community service, and fined him about $11,900.

Bruce Kaplan, the Middlesex County prosecutor, filed an appeal against the sentence, saying it was too lenient. That meant the start of the sentence would be delayed until the appeal was decided unless Ravi chose otherwise.

Ravi's most serious convictions typically carry a sentence of between five and 10 years in state prison, although a judge is allowed to reduce a sentence in "extraordinary circumstances," according to state sentencing guidelines.

"I accept responsibility for and regret my thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices that I made on September 19, 2010 and September 21, 2010," Ravi said in his statement on Tuesday.

"My behavior and actions, which at no time were motivated by hate, bigotry, prejudice or desire to hurt, humiliate or embarrass anyone, were nonetheless the wrong choices and decisions. I apologize to everyone affected by those choices."

The Middlesex County prosecutor's office could not be immediately reached for comment on Tuesday. Ravi is due to tell the judge his decision in court on Wednesday, and expects to report to the Middlesex County Jail to begin his sentence on Thursday, his lawyer said.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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