Evil acts deserve more than 30 days in jail, but that is not the way a judge in New Jersey looked at the mendacious acts of Dharun Ravi.
By now, we are all aware that Tyler Clementi, a young Rutgers University student, committed suicide last year by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.
As the facts surrounding his death unfolded, we discovered that Clementi was a young man coming to grips with his homosexuality, and having a difficult time with the process.
His roommate, Dharun Ravi, did not make thingseasier.InordertohumiliateClementi, Ravi surreptitiously used a computer webcam to spy on a homosexual encounter of Clementi’s. Then he proceeded to tweet on the Internet how his roommate was caught ‘making out with another dude.’ Ravi added to the pain by announcing how he was going to have a “viewing party” for the sexual act. He wanted to share his film with the school. Clementi could not handle it, and he took his own life.
even though he set into motion those forces, Ravi had no forewarning that Clementi was going to commit suicide. The school took disciplinary action against him, but a state prosecutor did more. They charged and convicted Ravi of a charge of ‘invasion of privacy’ and major counts of bias intimidation — in effect, anti-gay hate crimes.
The case focused national attention on antigay bullying, teen suicide, and hate-crime laws in the fast-changing Internet age.
The menial 30-day sentence imposed on Ravi by a New Jersey judge sent another message-that we still have a ways to go in order to make people more sensitive to bullying. 30 days? Come on, this was a lot more than a shoplifting case.
In law, you look at mens rea, or mental intent. When Ravi secretly filmed his roommate, it may have been viewed as a teenage prank. When he announced that he was going to have a ‘viewing party’ for everyone else in the college to see the sexual act, he showed his intent was to harm, humiliate and hurt.
After a trial that lasted four weeks, Ravi was not only convicted of all 15 charges against him, the evidence revealed he had attempted to cover his tracks by destroying text messages and tweets, and tampering with a witness. Those later acts were further probative of his evil intent.
Judge Glenn Berman said our society must demand “an intolerance for a lack of tolerance,” but he showed too much tolerance in sentencing Ravi to only 30 days in jail. The judge did order Ravi to serve three years probation, get counseling, and pay $10,000 toward a program to help victims of hate crimes. Sorry, but that’s not enough.
With a young man gone, and a life lost, no one comes out a winner. But if the loss of Clementi’s life is to have meaning going forward, our courts must send a message that hate has no place in our schools, and bullying has no place in our society.