As a New Jersey resident I have been glued to the radio all day awaiting the sentencing of Dharun Ravi, the young man convicted by a jury of his peers of invasion of privacy, witness tampering, and hindering apprehension or prosecution for spying on his roommate Tyler Clementi with his web cam. A complicated case, this spying was not done out of guilty pleasure, but out of a desire to shame and humiliate his gay roommate, who by all accounts had just come out to his supportive father and growing in support mother. Broadcasting his spying on social apps like Twitter, Dharun had planned to have a “screening” of Tyler’s next intimate sexual moments with a boyfriend.
The verdict is in: thirty days in jail plus three hundred hours of community service, counseling and a $10,000 fine.
No, not enough. The possible sentence could have been as much as ten years for the charges he was convicted of. Of which you will note, “bullied to death” and “hate crime” are noticeably absent. Dharun was convicted of a “bias crime” as the judge pointed out, not a hate crime. In cases like these, is there much of a difference? Dharun was a well educated young man living in New Jersey exposed to all sorts of cultures different from his own. When does supposed ignorance become an excuse?
While I am relieved that there is an un-suspended jail sentence, meaning he will have to serve all thirty days, I am unimpressed with the verdict, which prosecutors plan to appeal. What will thirty days do for Dharun? He’s shown no remorse since September 22, 2010, the day that Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington bridge to his death.
While Dharun’s mother has said that her son “does not have hate for anyone in his body”, Tyler’s father has said that Dharun Ravi has showed no remorse, which leads me to believe that this well educated and socialized young man did not reach out to the Clementis at any time after Tyler’s death to acknowledge their sorrow nor to apologize for the trauma he caused their son. The Ravis will also appeal the sentence, believing it too harsh.
While none of us can get inside the head of a young man standing on the edge of the George Washington bridge, I think we can all agree that finding himself the hot topic of conversation for his peers at a time when he was just beginning to discover his sexuality may be responsible for a few of the steps he took to get to that edge.
What would be fair? I don’t know. As a parent, I know that anyone involved with bullying my child while they are away from me, vulnerable, to the degree that they cannot go on with their lives, deserves a harsher punishment that thirty days. In researching other “peeping tom” cases I found that other punishments have been much harsher. The lightest being thirty days and a $250,000 fine and in that case the woman filed a civil suit and won because she was so unhappy with the original sentence. Tyler is not with us today to file a civil suit. In most cases, men were taping women undressing or using the bathroom, not engaging in sexual activity. In most cases the defendant received four months to ten years. In all cases the victim was alive to testify in court. Why is Dahrun being treated differently? You tell me. Is it because he is a college student with his whole life ahead of him? Does the judge honestly think he is going to learn from this experience and put his bias and hate aside, which possibly stems from the strong cultural roots he has? I am not as optimistic. This is a light sentence, and the sentence itself is bias towards the defendant’s upbringing, class and education.
The New Yorker (Magazine) was able to get a hold of instant messages between Ravi and his friends leading up to Clementi’s death. In one message Ravi writes, “I still really don’t care (that Clementi was gay) except what my parents are going to say. My dad is going to throw him out the window.” While some argue that Ravi was just being an insecure punk, feeding into he beliefs of his parents. I say if he really didn’t care (that Clementi was gay) then there wouldn’t have been a web-cam, a trial and Tyler Clementi would be going into his next year at Rutgers University. To echo the sentiments of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie “I don’t know how those two sleep at night.” (Referring to Dharun Ravi and his co-hort and fellow student Molly Wei.). Even he knows that when Tyler Clementi was standing on the edge of that bridge he was not alone, there were silent hands at his back.
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