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Rediff.com  » News » May 21 fateful day for Rajat Gupta, Dharun Ravi

May 21 fateful day for Rajat Gupta, Dharun Ravi

May 13, 2012 11:45 IST

May 21 promises to be a crucial day for the Indian-American community as one of corporate America's most prominent India-born executives is scheduled to go on trial here while miles away a New Jersey court is to decide the fate of a Chennai native convicted of a hate crime.

The trial of IIT and Harvard educated Rajat Gupta, 63, will begin in the US District Court Southern District of New York next Monday with jury selection.

Former McKinsey head Gupta has been accused of passing confidential information he received as a board member of Goldman Sachs and Procter and Gamble to billionaire hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam.

Rajaratnam, a Sri Lankan native, is currently serving 11 years in prison on insider trading charges.

Gupta has denied any wrongdoing and his fate will be decided by the trial, which will be closely watched by the media as well as corporate America.

The former Goldman Sachs director is one of the most high profile Wall Street executives to be charged with securities fraud by Manhattan's top federal prosecutor, India-born Preet Bharara.

The same day, nearly 40 miles from the Manhattan court, about the same time Gupta's trial will begin, former Rutgers university student Dharun Ravi will head to New Jersey where Judge Glenn Berman in the New Brunswick court will hand him his sentence on bias intimidation and invasion of privacy charges.

Ravi, 20, faces up to 10 years in prison and possible deportation to India when he is sentenced next Monday.

Ravi was found guilty after a three week trial in March of invading the privacy of his roommate Tyler Clementi by watching his sexual encounter with another man on a webcam in September 2010.

Days later, Clementi had committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington bridge.

The case generated a heated nation-wide debate on cyber bullying and treatment of young gays and lesbians.

As the date of sentencing closes in, Ravi's lawyers are seeking probation and not a prison term for him, arguing through character letters by his family and friends submitted in court that he is not a 'hate-mongering evil' person who despises gays, but is a friendly and caring young man.

Prosecutors, however, are demanding that Ravi be sentenced to prison as he 'shows no remorse' for the criminal acts he committed.

The Indian-American community has been putting its support behind Ravi, organising rallies and launching petition campaigns seeking that Ravi not be sentenced to prison nor be deported.

First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure said in a 14-page memorandum submitted in court last week that the state is not asking the court to sentence Ravi to the maximum 10 year prison term or to consecutive sentences.

Instead he should be given a period of imprisonment which is in proportion to the multiple crimes he committed and for which he was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the jury in March, McClure said.

In Gupta's case, prosecutors are expected to depend heavily on secretly recorded telephone conversations between him and Rajaratnam as well as the Galleon hedge fund founder's conversations with other people.

Prosecutors are seeking to present at least 26 wiretap conversations which they say will help further their claim that Gupta and Rajaratnam are co-conspirators in the insider trading crime.

Gupta's lawyer Gary Naftalis, who has said at pretrial hearings that the 'wrong man' is on trial, is on the other hand pushing to get those wiretaps excluded from the trial, including some in which Rajaratnam is heard talking about getting inside stock tips from someone at Goldman.

Gupta is not named in the talks.

Prosecutors say Rajaratnam is referring to Gupta in those calls and have filed a motion that referred to those wiretaps as being invaluable to their case.

'The importance of this evidence cannot be overstated,' prosecutors Reed Brodsky and Richard Tarlowe said of several wiretaps in the court filing.

Naftalis said those conversations are nothing but third hand information passed on by a felon.

Another wiretap conversation Naftalis wants removed is a July 29, 2008 call which is the 'only recorded substantive phone conversation' between Gupta and Rajaratnam, but which he said 'neither included a tip of material, nonpublic information nor led to any trading by Rajaratnam.'

During the 24-minute call, a transcript of which has been submitted in court, Rajaratnam asks Gupta whether he had 'heard anything' about a 'rumour' that Goldman Sachs is looking to buy a commercial bank.

Gupta replied, 'Yeah. This was a big discussion at the board meeting.'

Gupta's defence has said the phone conversations are 'extremely prejudicial' and irrelevant to charges of conspiracy and securities fraud faced by Gupta.

US District Judge Jed Rakoff, overseeing Gupta's trial, is expected to rule this week whether the wiretaps will be admissible during trial.

Yoshita Singh in New York