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Tyler Clementi And Dharun Ravi's Parents Prepare For Sentencing

AP  |  By Posted: Updated: 05/22/2012 8:06 am

Dharun Ravi
Dharun Ravi

UPDATE: Dharun Ravi has been sentenced. Click here for an update.

ORADELL, N.J. -- One couple lost their teenage son to suicide in the days after his college roommate used a webcam to see him kiss another man in September 2010; the other fears their son will be sent to prison this week for doing the spying.

The parents of Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi, on opposite sides of a tragedy that would horrify any parents, have been in the public eye throughout the criminal case, but they've remained circumspect when choosing their public words about their predicaments and their sons.

Both families sat through nearly every minute of Ravi's four-week-long trial, where he was convicted in March of 15 criminal charges including invasion of privacy and tampering with evidence. And both appeared in public forums last week just before Ravi is to be sentenced for his deeds. The two most serious counts - bias intimidation - could get him up to 10 years in prison, though prosecutors have said the maximum penalty is not necessary.

A sentence of more than a year would also increase the likelihood that federal immigration authorities will try to deport Ravi to India, where he was born and remains a citizen, though he has lived most of his life in New Jersey.

The case has turned both Clementi and Ravi, who for just three weeks shared a Rutgers University dorm room they were randomly assigned, into widely known symbols. Clementi is seen as an example of what can happen to young gays who are too often bullied even as acceptance of gays has increased. Ravi has been portrayed as a young man victimized by overzealous prosecutors who reacted to a tragedy by piling on charges. In their choices of where to appear, each couple has supported the symbolic perception of its own son.

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A judge is to decide Ravi's sentence Monday during what's sure to be an emotional court hearing, including statements from people close to Clementi. Ravi's lawyer said Friday that it was not yet decided whether Ravi will speak.

Ravi's parents, who granted just a few interviews after their son was convicted, attended a rally last week at New Jersey's State House in Trenton. Several hundred supporters, nearly all of them Indian or Indian-American like them and their 20-year-old son, called for Ravi to be kept out of prison and for reforms to hate-crime laws that some of the same people rallied in favor of supporting two decades ago.

The protesters said Ravi, an Ultimate Frisbee player and computer whiz who was studying economics, should not have been convicted of hate crimes because he does not hate gay people and that prison is too harsh a punishment for someone who did not mean to hurt anyone.

Ravi's father did not speak at the rally. His mother, Sabitha Ravi, thanked supporters but mostly chose to aim her words at the journalists who were there, saying those who covered the trial should speak up against her son being sent to prison. "You were quiet there. Why don't you wake up now and bring some justice for Dharun?" she asked.

When asked how her family and her son were doing, she didn't have much to say: "You can all understand what he's going through," she said.

Clementi's parents have communicated with the public mostly through written statements or reading prepared statements after court proceedings. In one, they said they wanted Ravi to be held accountable but that he need not be subject to a "harsh" punishment.

They did grant a handful of interviews, including one with The Associated Press, in December as they announced the launch of a foundation to honor their son. Then, they talked about how he had come out as gay to them days before he started at Rutgers.

In a handful of other public appearances, they have spoken mostly about the work they intend to do through the foundation, which is focusing on promoting online civility, preventing bullying and encouraging the acceptance of gays and others perceived to be different.

On Thursday night, they attended a community theater preview production of "The Laramie Project," a play about the fallout from the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was tied to a fence, savagely beaten and left for dead in a horrific case that led to hate-crime laws around the country.

The Clementis joined a panel discussion after the performance by the Bergen County Players. But they declined to say what sentence they believe Ravi should receive.

Instead, they spoke about the power of the play they had just seen. Joe Clementi said people should take friends who are not accepting of those with differences to see productions of it.

"There are more of us people that think the way we think than there are people who are the haters," he said.

He also said that his son's plight had echoes of the Matthew Shepard case. "The circumstances were different," he said. "The effect was the same."

___

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VOTE: HOW SHOULD RAVID BE SENTENCED?

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  • Dharun Ravi, Steve Altman

    Dharun Ravi, 20, right, walks out of Middlesex County jail with his attorney Steven Altman, in North Brunswick, N.J., Tuesday, June 19, 2012. Ravi, the former Rutgers University student who was convicted of bias intimidation for using a webcam to see his roommate kissing another man was released from jail Tuesday after serving 20 days of a 30-day sentence. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • This undated file photograph provided by Joseph and Jane Clementi shows their son Tyler Clementi at a family function. Opening arguments took place on Feb. 24, 2012 in the trial of a former Rutgers University student found guilty of using a webcam to spy on his roommate Clementi's intimate encounter with another man. (Clementi Family / AP)

  • Dharun Ravi, Steve Altman

    Dharun Ravi, 20, right, walks out of Middlesex County jail with his attorney Steven Altman, in North Brunswick, N.J., Tuesday, June 19, 2012. The Indian-born former Rutgers University student who was convicted of bias intimidation for using a webcam to see his roommate kissing another man was released from jail Tuesday after serving 20 days of a 30-day sentence. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • Dharun Ravi, Steve Altman

  • Dharun Ravi

    Dharun Ravi, 20, walks out of Middlesex County jail in North Brunswick, N.J., Tuesday, June 19, 2012. The Indian-born former Rutgers University student who was convicted of bias intimidation for using a webcam to see his roommate kissing another man was released from jail Tuesday after serving 20 days of a 30-day sentence. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • Dharun Ravi sits in court during his sentencing in New Brunswick, N.J., Monday, May 21, 2012. Ravi, a former Rutgers University student who used a webcam to watch his roommate kiss another man days before the roommate killed himself, was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail. A judge also gave 20-year-old Dharun Ravi three years of probation. (Mel Evans, AP)

  • Dharun Ravi

    Dharun Ravi, 22, arrives at the Middlesex County sheriff's department in New Brunswick, N.J., Thursday, May 31, 2012. The former Rutgers University student convicted of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate reported to the sheriff on his way to jail. Ravi arrived at the sheriff's department shortly after 12:30 p.m. to be fingerprinted and photographed before being driven to the county jail to serve a 30-day term. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • Dharun Ravi

    Dharun Ravi, 22, is photographed by the media as he arrives at the Middlesex County sheriff's department in New Brunswick, N.J., Thursday, May 31, 2012. The former Rutgers University student convicted of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate reported to the sheriff on his way to jail. Ravi arrived at the sheriff's department shortly after 12:30 p.m. to be fingerprinted and photographed before being driven to the county jail to serve a 30-day term. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • A Middlesex County Sheriff's Dept. van, reportedly transporting Dharun Ravi to jail, drives away from the sheriff's office in New Brunswick, N.J., Thursday, May 31, 2012. The former Rutgers University student convicted of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate turned himself in shortly after 12:30 p.m. to be fingerprinted and photographed before being driven to the county jail to serve a 30-day term. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • Ravi Pazhani

    Ravi Pazhani, leaves the Middlesex County sheriff's department past officers and the media in New Brunswick, N.J., Thursday, May 31, 2012, after the arrival of his son, Dharun Ravi. The former Rutgers University student convicted of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate was to report to the sheriff on his way to jail. Ravi, 22, arrived at the sheriff's department shortly after 12:30 p.m. to be fingerprinted and photographed before being driven to the county jail to serve a 30-day term. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • Philip Nettl, Dharun Ravi, Sabitha Ravi

  • Dharun Ravi, center, listens to a court officer with his attorneys Philip Nettl, left, and Steve Altman, during his sentencing in New Brunswick, N.J., Monday, May 21, 2012. Ravi, a former Rutgers University student who used a webcam to watch his roommate kiss another man days before the roommate killed himself was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail. A judge also gave 20-year-old Dharun Ravi three years of probation. (Mel Evans, AP)

  • Joseph Clementi,Jane Clementi

    Tyler Clementi's parents, Joseph Clementi and Jane Clementi, look on during a sentencing hearing for Dharun Ravi, in New Brunswick, N.J., Monday, May 21, 2012. Ravi, a former Rutgers University student who used a webcam to watch his roommate, Tyler Clementi, kiss another man days before Clementi killed himself, was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail. A judge also gave 20-year-old Dharun Ravi three years of probation. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • As fellow defense attorney Steve Altman, third left, listens, attorney Philip Nettl, left, speaks on behalf of Dharun Ravi, second left, as Middlesex County First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure, second right, and Assistant Prosecutor Chris Schellhorn, right, listen during a sentencing hearing for Ravi in New Brunswick, N.J., Monday, May 21, 2012. Ravi, a former Rutgers University student who used a webcam to watch his roommate kiss another man days before the roommate killed himself, was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail. A judge also gave 20-year-old Dharun Ravi three years of probation. (Mel Evans, AP)

  • Dharun Ravi, center, is helped by his father, Ravi Pazhani, second right, as they leave court around in New Brunswick, N.J., Friday, March 16, 2012. Defense attorney Philip Nettl follows, second left. Ravi, a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate's love life has been convicted of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. A jury found that he used a webcam to spy on roommate Tyler Clementi. Within days, Clementi realized he had been watched and jumped to his death from New York's George Washington Bridge in September 2010. (Mel Evans, AP)

  • Several hundred supporters rally in front of the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton, N.J., Monday, May 14, 2012, on behalf of Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student convicted of bias intimidation for using a webcam to see his roommate kissing another man. The 20-year-old was convicted in March and faces up to 10 years in prison. The case garnered national attention because his roommate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself in September 2010, just days after the spying. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • Jane Clementi hugs a family member following the verdict in the trial of Dharun Ravi, on Friday, March 16, 2012 at the Middlesex Superior Court in New Brunswick, N.J. Ravi, a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate's love life has been convicted of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. A jury found that he used a webcam to spy on roommate Tyler Clementi. Within days, Clementi realized he had been watched and jumped to his death from New York's George Washington Bridge in September 2010. (AP Photo/The Star-Ledger, Jerry McCrea, Pool)

  • Renuka Desai, of Edison, N.J., holds a sign and a flag as she joins several hundred supporters at a rally in front of the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton, N.J., Monday, May 14, 2012, on behalf of Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student convicted of bias intimidation for using a webcam to see his roommate kissing another man. The 20-year-old was convicted in March and faces up to 10 years in prison. The case garnered national attention because his roommate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself in September 2010, just days after the spying. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • Sabitha Ravi, center, talks outside the New Jersey Statehouse about her son, Dharun Ravi, in Trenton, N.J., Monday, May 14, 2012. Supporters rallied on behalf of Dharun, the former Rutgers University student convicted of bias intimidation for using a webcam to see his roommate kissing another man. The case garnered national attention because his roommate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself in September 2010, just days after the spying. Ravi Pazhani, right, and Satish Mehtani, left, watch. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • Nachhatar Singh, right, and Gill Harjit wait to join several hundred supporters outside the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton, N.J., Monday, May 14, 2012, on behalf of Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student convicted of bias intimidation for using a webcam to see his roommate kissing another man. The case garnered national attention because his roommate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself in September 2010, just days after the spying. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • Dharun Ravi, center, is helped by his father, Ravi Pazhani, right, as they leave court around noon in New Brunswick, N.J., Friday, March 16, 2012. Ravi, a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate's love life has been convicted of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. A jury found that he used a webcam to spy on roommate Tyler Clementi. Within days, Clementi realized he had been watched and jumped to his death from New York's George Washington Bridge in September 2010. (Mel Evans, AP)

  • Dharun Ravi, former Rutgers student found guilty of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man, leaves Middlesex County Court on Dec. 9, 2011 in New Brunswick, N.J. Ravi rejected a plea deal that would have kept him out of prison and sought to prevent his deportation, accepting the gamble of a trial. Tyler Clementi, 18, committed suicide days after the alleged spying in September 2010. Ravi, 19, is not charged in connection with Clementi's death. (Noah K. Murray, AP)

  • Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman talks to the jurors after their verdict in the trial of Dharun Ravi, on Friday, March 16, 2012 at the Middlesex Superior Court in New Brunswick, N.J. Ravi, a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate's love life has been convicted of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. A jury found that he used a webcam to spy on roommate Tyler Clementi. Within days, Clementi realized he had been watched and jumped to his death from New York's George Washington Bridge in September 2010. (AP Photo/The Star-Ledger, Jerry McCrea, Pool)

  • Dharun Ravi, former Rutgers University student listened to his attorney Steve Altman as he rejected a new plea offer at Middlesex County Court on Dec. 9, 2011 in New Brunswick, N.J. Ravi was found guilty of using a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, during an intimate encounter with another man. Clementi, 18, committed suicide days after the alleged spying in September 2010. (Noah K. Murray, AP)

  • In this May 6, 2011 photo, Molly Wei, the former Rutgers student charged with Dharun Ravi with invading the privacy of Tyler Clementi, looks at the prosecutors during her appearance before Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick, N.J. (Frank H. Conlon, AP)

  • Jane Clementi, right, and her husband, Joseph Clementi, left, attend a symposium on use and misuse of social media at Rutgers University on Nov. 14, 2011, in Piscataway, N.J. Their son, Tyler Clementi, was in his first weeks as a student at Rutgers in September 2010 when he killed himself after a roommate used a webcam to spy on Clementi's intimate encounter with another man. The family has started a foundation in their son's honor to address cyberbullying. (Julio Cortez, AP)

  • In this Dec. 9, 2011 photo, Jane Clementi looks at family photographs at her home in Ridgewood, N.J. Jane Clementi, the mother of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who killed himself after his roommate used a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with another man, says that he had a lot on his mind just before he went to college. His mother says that in one conversation a few days before Tyler left for college he told her that he was gay, had doubts about his religious beliefs and was sad that he did not have close friends. (Mel Evans, AP)

  • In this Oct. 1, 2010 photo, Rutgers University students sign condolence cards at Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J., for the family of fellow student Tyler Clementi. Rutgers University has planned a silent vigil to remember Clementi, who committed suicide after his sexual encounter was secretly streamed online. (Mel Evans, AP)

  • U. S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks at a statewide town meeting in memory of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi on Oct. 6, 2010 at the Rutgers University Student Center in New Brunswick, N.J. (Bill Kostroun, AP)

  • New Jersey Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Edison, stands with other lawmakers on Oct. 25, 2010, in Trenton, N.J., as she answers a question about a bill they introduced to toughen the state's anti-bullying laws after the widely publicized suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi. The bipartisan group of lawmakers touted the "anti-bullying bill of rights" targeting public schools and colleges. (Mel Evans, AP)

  • In this Dec. 9, 2011 photo, Joseph Clementi looks at his wife, Jane Clementi, as they sit in Ridgewood, N.J. (Mel Evans, AP)

  • People walk outside Davidson Hall "C" Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, in Piscataway, N.J. The death of Tyler Clementi, 18, a Rutgers University freshman living in the dorm, has stirred outrage and remorse among classmates who said they wished they could have stopped the teen from jumping off a bridge after secret video of his sexual encounter with a man was streamed online. Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, was found guilty of invading Clementi's privacy. (Mel Evans, AP)

  • In this Dec. 9, 2011 photo, Jane Clementi answers a question as she sits with husband Joseph Clementi as they talk about their son Tyler, in their home in Ridgewood, N.J. The parents of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who killed himself after his roommate used a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with another man, say that he had a lot on his mind just before he went to college. (Mel Evans, AP)

  • In this Oct. 3, 2010 file photo, people participate in a candlelight vigil for Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi at Brower Commons on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, N.J. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River on Sept. 22 after intimate images of him with another man in his dorm room were broadcast online. (Reena Rose Sibayan, AP)

  • In this May 23, 2011 file photo, Joe Clementi, top left, and his wife, Jane, right, sit inside Judge Glenn Berman's courtroom at the Middlesex County Courthouse during a hearing for Dharun Ravi, in the webcam-spying case involving the suicide of their son Tyler Clementi, in New Brunswick, N.J. Joe and Jane Clementi said Friday, March 23, 2012, that a jury got it right last week by convicting their son's roommate, Ravi, of hate crimes and other offenses. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

  • In a March 9, 2012 file photo, Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student who was found guilty of hate crimes for using a webcam to view his roommate at Rutgers University kissing another man, waits before court proceedings in New Brunswick, N.J. In a legal filing Tuesday, May 1, 2012, Ravi's lawyers asked a judge to overturn the jury's conviction. They said the jury convicted Ravi 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. (AP Photo/The Star-Ledger, John Munson, Pool, File)

  • Dharun Ravi, Joseph Benedict

    FILE - In this May 30, 2012, file photo, Dharun Ravi, right, sits with his attorney Joseph Benedict during a hearing in New Brunswick, N.J. Ravi, the former Rutgers University student convicted of using his webcam to watch his roommate kiss another man, is due to be released from jail Tuesday, June 19 after serving 20 days of a 30 day sentence. Ravi reported to jail last month even though he could have remained free during an appeal of the case. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

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