Ex-Student Wants Hate Crime Convictions Dismissed
A former Rutgers University student who was found guilty of hate crimes for using a webcam to view his roommate kissing another man has asked a judge to overturn the jury’s conviction.
In a legal filing Tuesday, Dharun Ravi’s lawyers said the jury convicted him in March despite evidence that he was not guilty of invading the privacy or intimidating roommate Tyler Clementi, who killed himself days after the webcam was used.
And on the most disputed and serious charges - bias intimidation - the lawyers say the law was misused. On some of those counts, the jury found that Ravi did not mean to intimidate Clementi or the other man, but that Clementi reasonably believed he did. Jurors said as much both in their findings in court and in comments afterward to journalists. Copies of some news articles were included with the brief to support Ravi’s lawyers’ position.
"To criminalize a defendant for a victim’s mistaken belief about the defendant’s motive would turn the bias intimidation statute into a mockery of itself," wrote the lawyers, Steven Altman and Philip Nettl. It is standard practice for lawyers to ask for a judge to overturn a conviction after a jury delivers it. In Ravi’s case, the request is for the judge to acquit Ravi entirely - or at least grant him a new trial.
The lawyers said that the jury was wrong on invasion of privacy charges because the snippets video that Ravi and others saw did not show sexual acts or nudity.
Prosecutors had no immediate comment on the court filing. But they’re sure to have more to say in coming weeks as they file papers to recommend a sentence for Ravi.
He could face 10 years in prison when he’s sentenced on May 21. And because he’s a citizen of India, where he was born, Ravi could also be deported eventually because of the conviction.
The case has enflamed passions.
Almost immediately after his suicide in September 2010, Clementi came to be seen as a symbol of the bullying young gays can face. President Barack Obama spoke out about the case and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres made it a key cause of hers.