Clementi's parents: Penalty need not be harsh

Tyler Clementi's parents want an official accounting of any criminal behavior in their son's suicide but say a harsh penalty for his former Rutgers University roommate isn't necessarily in order.

Clementi killed himself in September 2010, days after his roommate allegedly used a webcam to spy on Clementi's intimate encounter with another man. His death touched off a national discussion about bullying endured by young gays.

For the roommate, Dharun Ravi, it's meant a criminal case. Ravi is scheduled for trial in February on 15 charges, including invasion of privacy and the hate crime of bias intimidation. If he is convicted, he could get up to 10 years in prison.

But Clementi's parents, Joseph and Jane Clementi of Ridgewood, said in a statement Monday that the case is not about whether Ravi's actions caused their son's death but about whether Ravi's conduct amounted to criminal behavior.

The Clementis have sat through all the court proceedings against the 19-year-old Ravi. A few times they have read statements afterward, but have never answered reporters' questions then or at other times.

Their lawyer, Paul Mainardi, issued the statement on their behalf. In it, they applaud Judge Glenn Berman's ruling last week that prosecutors did not have to give defense lawyers copies of Clementi's personal writings.

"Tyler is not on trial in this case," they said in the statement. "Despite some media narratives to the contrary, the criminal case is not about whether the roommate's acts caused Tyler to commit suicide. The criminal case is about the roommate's conduct."

They also added: "Legal accountability does not necessarily require the imposition of a harsh penalty in this case."

Defense lawyers asked for the writings, hoping to find that Clementi did not feel intimidated by his roommate or perhaps was troubled by something other than the alleged spying.

The parents did not comment on another ruling Berman made last week that required prosecutors to tell Ravi and his lawyer the name of the other man in the encounter. The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office is expected to appeal that ruling this week.