Karen Ocamb

Dharun Ravi Sentenced to 30 Days for Webcam Cyber-Bullying

Filed By Karen Ocamb | May 21, 2012 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Dharun Ravi, hate crimes against LGBT people, LGBT suicide, Rutgers spycam, spycam cyberbullying, Tyler Clementi

Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman in New Jersey sentenced Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail for what he called a "bias crime," not a hate crime in the landmark case about cyber-bullying. Ravi was also sentenced to probation for three years; must serve 300 hours of community service, Dharun-Ravi-Sentencing.jpegattend counseling regarding cyber bullying and "alternative life style;" $10,000 to state-licensed community based organization that provides assistant to victims of bias crimes. The judge also imposed other mandatory $11, 905 starting Aug. 1 at $300 a month over three years. The judge said he's opposed to Ravi being deported.

Dharun Ravi at his sentencing hearing May 21, 2012 (Photo via CNN)

The judge said he would grant the mandatory 10-day stay while Ravi gets his affairs in order but would not grant prosecutor McLure's request for a stay of the entire sentence pending an appeal of what she apparently feels is a light sentence.

Much more after the break.

On March 16, a jury found Ravi guilty of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, hindering apprehension and tampering with physical evidence. for webcam cyber-spying on his 18 year old gay Rutgers University roommate, Tyler Clementi. Clementi later committed suicide by jumping off New York's George Washington Bridge in September 2010. Ravi faced 10 years in prison and possible deportation to India.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger was live-blogging during the sentencing hearing and has the moving victim impact statements. At one point, Ravi's defense attorney Steve Altman noted that Ravi has been "demonized" throughout the case and said, "This case has been tried and treated and exists today as if it's a murder case."

Clementi's father Joe said of Tyler: "My son Tyler was a kind and gentle soul... Nobody other than Tyler understood how vulnerable he was, but the fact is that he was very vulnerable -- and he was shaken by the cold, criminal actions of his roommate."

Clementi's mother gave an emotional victim impact statement:

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James Clementi was upset that Ravi showed no remorse. "I have often found myself wondering if Dharun Ravi is even capable of empathizing with another person," he said.

The other victim of Ravi's cyber bullying, the man with whom Clementi was being intimate and was identified only as "M.B" during the trial, had his victim impact statement read in court. "I do not mind that Mr. Ravi has never apologized to me for what he did and said, but I do wonder if it ever has entered his mind that he has caused me a great deal of pain and yet he knows nothing about me," M.B. said.

Prosecutor Julia L. McClure told the jury on the first day of trial that "these acts were purposeful, they were intentional, and they were planned" because Ravi "was bothered by Tyler Clementi's sexual orientation."

But Ravi, who didn't testify at trial, told ABC's "20/20? that he thought Clementi understood he "wasn't trying to intimidate him and scare him because he was gay." He also sounded like a victim of the media: "I felt like I was being used by everybody... They were taking revenge on me, even though what they think happened isn't what happened."

The New York Times reported on how some in the LGBT community have rallied to Ravi's side:

As repugnant as his behavior was, they say, it was not the blatantly bigoted or threatening actions that typically define hate crimes. Some fear that a sentence that overreaches might provide tinder to antigay sentiment -- a New Jersey talk-radio host complained soon after the verdict of the "gay lobby" railroading Mr. Ravi.

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."

The Times cites former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's op-ed in which he "argued that Mr. Ravi's conviction 'showed how far we have traveled from the hateful, homophobic past. The criminal justice system worked, this time for a gay victim. But there was something disquieting about the prospect of retributive punishment being meted out on behalf of a gay young man."

The Times also quotes Richard Kim, the gay executive editor of The Nation online, who wrote after Clementi's suicide, who "does not think the verdict against Mr. Ravi was justified, and he does not think he should serve jail time."

The Times also reported that

Dan Savage, a gay columnist whose video campaign, "It Gets Better," began in response to other suicides of gay teenagers just before Mr. Clementi, 18, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge, argued that simply locking up Mr. Ravi was a lost opportunity to talk about the other institutions and people "complicit" in Mr. Clementi's death.

"What was he told about being gay growing up, by his faith leaders, by the media, by the culture?" Mr. Savage said. "Ravi may have been the last person who made him feel unsafe and abused and worthless, but he couldn't have been the first.

"The rush to pin all the responsibility on Ravi and then wash our hands and walk away means we're not going to learn the lessons of these kids."

And:

Suzanne B. Goldberg, a law professor at Columbia, said the sentence had to match what others would get.

"Most 20-year-olds who commit serious crimes don't get community service," she said.

Ms. Goldberg compared Mr. Ravi's case to that of a teenager who kills someone while sending text messages and driving. "It shows the same disregard of human life and human dignity that stems in part from immaturity," she said. "The texters are not texting with the intent of causing someone's death, but if they cause injury or death, they are held accountable. To have them just engage in a public-service campaign against texting while driving is not what we do in our current system."

Here's reaction to the sentence from Garden State Equality Chair Steven Goldstein:

Moments ago, Judge Berman decided to sentence Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail. We have been public in taking a position of balance: We opposed throwing the book at Dharun Ravi. We have spoken out against giving him the maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and against deporting him. That would have been vengeance beyond punishment and beyond sending a message to the rest of society.

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.

Remember that Ravi had messaged his motivation in violating Tyler's privacy: "I saw him making out with a dude. Yay." Remember that before Tyler took his life, Ravi messaged a friend: "Keep the gays away." And remember that because Ravi had tampered with evidence, his post-facto messages to Tyler that he, Ravi, had no problem with gay people understandably lost their credibility to the jury.

Dharun Ravi wasn't convicted of a bias crime unfairly. Dharun Ravi was convicted of a bias crime because his own words broadcast anti-gay animus to Tyler Clementi and the world.

Since the verdict, Dharun Ravi's extraordinary lawyers and their media operation have deemphasized these facts, stunningly able to recast Ravi in the role of victim, scapegoat and even folk hero. But we remember the trial itself - a long and painstaking trial where Ravi had the best team possible, unlike many other defendants charged with serious crimes.

None of us not directly affected by this tragedy has reason to be happy. Tyler Clementi is no longer with us. Another man - M.B. - has seen this tragedy wreak havoc on his own life. The life of a third man, Dharun Ravi, will never be the same again. And Tyler's family will forever have to live with the loss of their son, brother, nephew and cousin. May the family receive strength from their loving memories.

Those who have oppose giving Dharun Ravi jail time have asked, hasn't he suffered enough? But we believe there's another question: Has Dharun Ravi done enough? Has he done enough to use his place in history to speak out against student bullying and to make a positive impact on millions of lives across our state and nation?

Thus far, no.

Though Tyler Clementi has left us, the rest of Dharun Ravi's life will help tell his life story. Ravi's own lawyer portrayed him as a young man who engaged merely in jerky behavior. Ravi can stay that course, or he can do some good with his life by making amends and fighting for the justice and dignity of every individual, including people who are LGBT. That much is up to Ravi.

As for all of us, we must continue our focus on building a better world, one free of bullying of every student, so that a tragedy like this never happens again. That's what New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the country's strongest anti-bullying law, is ultimately about.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all whose lives have been changed by this tragedy.


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