Using webcams to spy on other students is, sadly a common enough phenomenon in college. What made this case different was that Tyler Clementi was hooking up with another guy – and by broadcasting the encounter to his classmates, Dharun Ravi was “outing” his roommate to the entire university.
The case was charged as a bias crime – with a possible sentence of 10 years in prison, and deportation for Dharun Ravi, who is an Indian citizen.
This morning, this reporter was at Middlesex County, New Jersey Superior Court, as Judge Glenn Berman read his verdict. He surprised everyone by sentencing Ravi to just 30 days in jail, and three years’ probation. Read about it in the New York Times.
For the prosecution, and for gay rights advocates who’d vilified Ravi as an example of the pandemic bullying of LGBT teenagers, the sentencing seemed inadequate.
“We opposed throwing the book at Dharun Ravi,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of prominent New Jersey gay rights group Garden State Equality, “but we have similarly rejected the other extreme, that Ravi should have gotten no jail time at all, and today’s sentencing is closer to that extreme than the other. This was not merely a childhood prank gone awry. This was not a crime without bias.”
But others, including many among the Indian-American community, had exactly the opposite reaction.
Dharun Ravi’s lawyer, Steven Altman, warned: “Dharun’s youth and immaturity were unable to provide him with the tools necessary to appreciate the consequences of his actions.” He claimed a prison sentence would ultimately not serve as any more of a deterrent than probation and community service. He clarified that the media attention surrounding Clementi’s suicide meant, “This case is being treated and exists today as if it’s a murder case.”
What do you think? Do you think Dharun’s sentencing was too light?
Or do you think it reflects the argument Ravi’s lawyer is making; that it was just a college prank that had tragically unforeseen, and deadly, consequences?
Let us know in the comments below.