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Former Rutgers student rejects no-prison plea deal in Tyler Clementi suicide case

Sunday, December 11, 2011
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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A former Rutgers University student accused of bullying his gay roommate, allegedly leading his victim to kill himself, rejected a plea deal on Friday that would have allowed him to avoid a jail sentence.

Dharun Ravi, 19, is accused of streaming images online of his roommate Tyler Clementi engaged in an intimate encounter with another man. On Sept. 22, 2010, just days after the video was broadcast, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

Ravi has received a 15-count indictment, including a charge of the hate crime of bias intimidation, for his alleged actions that led to Tyler’s death, and for trying to cover up it up afterward.

But under a plea agreement proposed by prosecutors, Ravi would have had to plead guilty to the most serious of the 15 charges against him in exchange for the prosecution asking that he face a probationary sentence rather than jail time.

The sentence would have included 600 hours of community service and getting counseling on so-called “cyber-bulling” and understanding alternative lifestyles, said Jim O’Neill, a spokesman for the Middlesex County prosecutor.

The state would also have offered assistance with immigration issues, such as the possible threat of deportation, that may have followed Ravi offering a guilty plea, O’Neill said, adding that Ravi was an Indian citizen with U.S. permanent residency.

Ravi turned the deal down in New Jersey’s Middlesex County Superior Court on Friday, and will now go to trial in February.

If convicted of the most serious charges, which include bias intimidation and privacy invasion, Ravi could face up to 10 years in prison. He is not directly charged with causing Clementi’s death.

Ravi had previously turned down a less lenient plea deal in October that would have seen him facing a prison sentence of three to five years.

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