BY GEOFF MULVIHILL, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Old friends are coming to the defense of a former Rutgers University student who was convicted of hate crimes for using his webcam to view his roommate and another man kissing in a case that came to symbolize bullying of gay youth.
Letters from several friends of 20-year-old Dharun Ravi were included in a Friday court filing that requests that a judge sentence him to probation rather than prison. The legal papers characterize Ravi as outgoing and not hateful, and say it would be unfair to send him to prison in part because doing so would likely mean he would face deportation to his native India.
One of the letters came from Alisa Agarwal, a Rutgers student who testified on behalf of the state at Ravi's trial earlier this year. "Although his humor may seem offensive to people who are not familiar with his personality, by experience, I can easily vouch that words have no malicious intention," she wrote. "Never could I imagine him bullying someone."
Sentencing is scheduled for May 21 for Ravi, who was convicted in March in a case that gained national attention when the roommate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself days after the spying in September 2010.