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Deportation: One of the Possible Penalties for Webcam Defendant

Dharun Ravi, whose Rutgers roommate jumped to his death after his sexual encounter with another man was advertised on the Internet, could face harsh penalties for what some might call a computer crime. Although prosecutors offered him a plea deal that would avoid prison time and deportation, Ravi and his legal team chose to "roll the dice," as one immigration attorney who is not involved in the case commented. Ravi could be deported if convicted on some of the charges he faces in Middlesex County Court.

Ravi's roommate, Tyler Clementi, jumped from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010 after Ravi used a webcam to film Clementi's sexual encounter with another man and invited others to view it using email, Facebook and Twitter. The case has drawn national attention because of the legal issues it raised. Was the filming a hate crime, or merely a college prank thoughtlessly perpetrated by an 18-year-old college freshman? As of this writing, the jury has not yet decided.

Ravi could be deported even if he serves no prison time if he is convicted of a crime considered to reflect "moral turpitude." He is an Indian citizen who has lived in the United States legally for many years. A decision to deport him would be separate from the current trial and would be made by a federal immigration judge. Ravi could also be convicted if he is convicted on any of the charges that lead to a prison sentence of one year or more.

The 20-year-old faces 15 charges that include hindering apprehension, tampering with a witness and tampering with the evidence. However, legal experts say that he is likely to go to prison only if he is convicted of a second-degree bias intimidation charge. He could be convicted of intimidation if he also is found guilty of the invasion of privacy charge. Moreover, the jury would need to decide that Ravi deliberately intended to intimidate Clementi or his lover, or that Clementi had reason to believe that Ravi sought to intimidate him because of his sexual orientation.

Source: philly.com, "Deportation is at stake in Rutgers webcam trial," by Geoff Mulvihill, Mar. 15, 2012.

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