Dharun Ravi
Dharun Ravi

NEWARK, N.J. (Diya TV) — A New Jersey appeals court on Sept. 9 tossed the 15-count conviction of Dharun Ravi, a former student at Rutgers University whose roommate killed himself after being captured on a webcam kissing another man.

The three-judge panel dismissed four bias intimidation counts against Ravi because of a change in state law since his 2012 trial.

Judges ordered a new trial take place on other counts including invasion of privacy, tampering with evidence and hindering apprehension because, they wrote, the evidence prosecutors used to prove the bias charges “tainted the jury’s verdict on the remaining charges, depriving defendant of his constitutional right to a fair trial.”

Ravi faced up to a maximum of 10 years in prison, however, he was sentenced to 30 days in county jail plus three years’ probation and community service. He ended up serving 20 days.

Prosecutors had argued before the appeals court that the sentencing judge overstepped his authority by imposing a sentence that was too lenient. The Sept. 9 ruling rendered that argument moot.

The parents of Tyler Clementi, Ravi’s ex-roommate, formed a foundation that addresses bullying and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

During his three-week-long trial, jurors were told that in Sept. 2010 Ravi used a friend’s computer to view a few seconds of live streaming video from his own dorm-room webcam and saw Clementi, his roommate, and another man kissing. He told others about it in person, in texts, instant messages and tweets, and alerted others again two days later that Clementi, 18, wanted the room to himself again. That time, the camera did not operate.

One night later, Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge. The case against Ravi prompted a national conversation about anti-gay bullying and teen suicide, and highlighted the pervasive effects and potential harm of social media.

Ravi’s attorney, Steven Altman, cited in his appeal a 2013 state supreme court ruling that made a victim’s perception of an alleged bias incident less important than the alleged perpetrator’s intent.

“The social environment that transformed a private act of sexual intimacy into a grotesque voyeuristic spectacle must be unequivocally condemned in the strongest possible way,” the judges wrote. “The fact that this occurred in a university dormitory, housing first-year college students, only exacerbates our collective sense of disbelief and disorientation.”

Altman told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that he was pleased with the court’s decision in ordering a new trial.

“We genuinely felt that the basis of the conviction and the basis of the presentation of the state’s case was wrong,” Altman said, adding: “Dharun Ravi, whatever he did or didn’t do, had no homophobic motive involved.”