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Judge in gay-bias case defends brief sentence

After fielding criticism in emails, blogs and newspaper columns, a judge Wednesday defended his decision to give a 30-day jail sentence to the former Rutgers student who used a webcam to spy on his gay roommate.

Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman said the punishment is harsh enough to deter others from doing the same thing, but not so severe that it will put Dharun Ravi, 20, in prison with hardened criminals.

"I can't find it in me to remand him to state prison that houses people convicted of offenses such as murder, armed robbery and rape," Berman said. "I don't believe that fits this case. I believe he has to be punished, and he will be."

Ravi is scheduled to report to jail today.

In March, a jury found him guilty of 15 criminal charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. He used his webcam in September 2010 to stream -- and view -- seconds of live video of roommate Tyler Clementi and another man kissing in their dorm room and told others they could watch another encounter two days later.

Clementi jumped to his death from New York City's George Washington Bridge just days later.

Some gay rights activists have portrayed his story as a prime example of the consequences of bullying young gays. Ravi's defenders see him as a scapegoat for a death that they don't believe he was responsible for -- and was not charged with.

Berman said he wanted to explain further the sentence he handed down last week largely because it's being appealed by prosecutors, who say it's too lenient, and he wanted to provide appellate judges a clear rationale for his decision.

His amplification came during a hearing Wednesday to clear the way for Ravi to report to jail today -- even though he could have remained free while prosecutors appeal the sentence. His attorney said Ravi would also begin working on his 300 hours of community service and start paying the more than $11,000 in fines and assessments that are part of his punishment.

Ravi requested permission Tuesday to start serving as he apologized for the first time for his actions, which he described in a statement as "thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish."

In court Wednesday, Ravi answered questions from his attorney and Berman but did not say any more about his apology.

Ravi attorney Joseph Benedict said he is appealing the conviction.