This morning, May 21, 20-year-old Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in prison beginning on May 31 after being found guilty of using a webcam to spy on his Rutgers University roommate, Tyler Clementi. Judge Glenn Berman said that Ravi’s sentence needed to “constitute a measured response” and be “balanced”; he did say that Ravi had acted not out of hate but from “colossal insensitivity,” says NJ.com:
This individual was not convicted of a hate crime. he was convicted of a bias crime and there’s a difference. I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi. He had no reason to. But I do believe that he acted out of colossal insensitivity.
Berman noted that Ravi had not apologized. “Down the road you can expunge this judgement,” the judge added. “You cannot expunge the conduct or the pain you caused.”
Berman also said that he would recommend that Ravi not be deported.
Ravi will also have a three-year probation sentence under which he must complete 300 hours of community services, attend a counseling program relative to cyber bullying and alternate lifestyles and pay a $10,000 fine. According to NJ.com, Ravi’s father “smiled and said he was happy with the sentence when asked by a reporter,” shortly after the sentence was read in court.
On March 16, Ravi was convicted of bias intimidation as a hate crime, which carries a prison sentence of between five and ten years. As a native of India, Ravi had also faced deportation.
Ravi’s freshman roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010, days after Ravi set up a web cam in their dorm room and used it to spy on Clementi kissing another man. Ravi then tweeted about what he saw and, two days later, tried to spy on Clementi again. After Clementi realized that he had been watched, he posted “Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry” on Facebook and took his own life.
Petitions Requesting a Pardon For Ravi
Ravi was sentenced at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick, where Rutgers University is located. A line of people seeking to enter the courthouse stretched out into the street on a rainy Monday morning. Tyler Clementi’s parents, Jane and Joseph Clementi arrived at the courthouse accompanied by family and friends; Ravi was arrived with some 30 people, including his family and lawyer. Both families gave emotional statements before Ravi’s sentencing.
Judge Glenn Berman told the media that he had received numerous petitions asking President Barack Obama and Gov. Chris Christie to pardon Ravi, says NJ.com. The judge noted that the petitions to the President are ”of no legal consequence whatsoever” because “rightly or wrongly” the president can only pardon people for offenses against the US. Of the petitions to the New Jersey governor, Berman said “It’s not before me, it’s not my issue” and offered no comment.
A New York Times article published prior to Ravi’s sentencing noted that, while Ravi was initially seen as a “symbol of antigay bias,” some gay rights advocates had urged leniency in his sentencing. Ravi was not charged with Clementi’s suicide but punishing him for it “ignores the complicated social pressures that drive gay teenagers to kill themselves”:
While Mr. Clementi’s suicide in September 2010 galvanized public attention on the struggles of gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers, the question of how to punish Mr. Ravi has revealed the deep discomfort that many gay people feel about using the case as a crucible. “You’re making an example of Ravi in order to send a message to other people who might be bullying, to schools and parents and to prosecutors who have not considered this a crime before,” said Marc Poirier, a law professor at Seton Hall University who is gay and has written about hate-crimes legislation. “That’s a function of criminal law, to condemn as general deterrence. But I think this is a fairly shaky set of facts on which to do it.”
Peter Frycki, who publishes Out in New Jersey, says that his readers had been split, “with about two-thirds saying they believed that the jury had done the right thing, and one-third disagreeing.” Many, though, said that Ravi should have to do community service, rather than jail time.
Suzanne B. Goldberg, a law professor at Columbia University, pointed out that the sentence must be the same to what others would get. “Most 20-year-olds who commit serious crimes don’t get community service,” she said in the New York Times.
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