UPDATE: May 21st 2012: Dharun Ravi has been sentenced.
He received 30 days in jail, three years probation, 300 hours community service, $10,000 fine, and possible deportation to India.
I felt that the potential 10 years and deportation was a bit harsh, considering we didn't know unequivocably whether or not his actions led to Clementi's suicide. That said, 30 days in jail and some probation/community service a fine and POTENTIAL deportation is ridiculously light, in my opinion.
At long last the trial of Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers student who had set up a webcam to catch his roomate, Tyler Clementi, making out with a male friend, with the intent to humiliate him by outing him to anyone who didn't already know, is over.
Courtesy of Huffington Post:
A jury found Dharun Ravi guilty of invasion of privacy for spying on his Rutgers University roommate Tyler Clementi and other charges.
The jury deliberated for 12 hours for more than two days and also convicted him of tampering with physical evidence.
The 15-count indictment included several bias intimidation charges, because prosecutors claimed Ravi bullied Clementi for being gay. The jury of seven women and five men agreed, finding him guilty of hate crimes, The New York Times reports.
In all Ravi was convicted of bias, invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension and witness tampering, according to the Star-Ledger. The newspaper reported he could be deported to India, his country of birth.
The verdict carries a possible sentence of five to 10 years, according to ABC News. Sentencing is set for May 21.
Now I wrote about this case back when it happened, and it seems that when this case initially hit the wire, there was a lot of misconceptions about what in fact happened. We were told that Ravi and his friend uploaded video online for everyone to see (they didn't) that Clementi was a closeted gay teen (Clementi had already come out to his family) and that Clementi committed suicide because of Ravi's exposing his alleged closeted homosexuality, when there has been doubt cast as to whether or not Clementi was even bothered by this instance. There have been those who have said that personal issues not related to the surreptitious webcam activity are what pushed him to commit suicide three days later by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in New York.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP
Some of the reactions have been interesting, I think. For instance, esteemed author Bret Easton Ellis who wrote the novel that became the films "Less Than Zero" and "American Psycho" took to twitter to rage about the case, prior to the guilty verdict. He wrote the following in a series of angry tweets:
"Dharun Ravi might be a jerk but if a jury convicts him because Tyler Clementi killed himself then the US justice system is seriously fucked...If Tyler Clementi had not killed himself we would have never heard of Dharun Ravi. This is a witch hunt pure and simple and it sickens me...Bullying=Suicide? Personally I blame the parents and an entire culture that indulges a childproof world where pain and losing doesn't exist....I was bullied. It was awful. But I learned a lot. I learned how to cope. It taught me things: people are cruel, the world sucks. I grew up."
Now normally I might just chalk that up to just someone who's a "tough love" kinda guy. We've all met those people who have overcome something, whether it's bullying, or smoking, or whatever and feel that everyone else should do it just as easily as they did, and if they don't they're just a bunch of spineless weak people.
Yet you also have to factor in whether or not his stance is coming from a more darker place. This is the same guy, don't forget, who last year mentioned that whenever he watched an episode of the gay friendly themed hit television series "Glee", that he wondered, "why is it that every time I watch an episode I feel like I've stepped into a puddle of HIV?"
It should be noted that, as the Advocate pointed out in the article that includes the above quote, that Less than Zero (a film that I love, by the way) features a bi-sexual protagonist (portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in the film). Is he "homophobic" or anything like that? I dunno, but they were some interesting comments to say the least.
There were some (including Easton Ellis) that called the verdict racist, and there were many cheering the idea of him not being comfortable with a gay roommate, and joyously crowing about how he would react to prison. And while I'm not 100% on how to feel about the final verdict, I think that a tweet by a woman named Amy Nicholson pretty much sums up my thoughts on it:
Very conflicted about Dharun Ravi's guilty verdict. The truth is a lot more complicated than newsbites make it sound.
I posted a little about this on Facebook earlier and said that while he may not have intended to cause Clementi's suicide, he damn sure intended to humiliate him by exposing his relationship with this other guy. You can go on and on about how inconsiderate Clementi was to allegedly kick his roommate out so he could have alone time with this guy who Ravi didn't know, but to me that doesn't matter. That doesn't excuse what he did.
Clementi asked him for the room for three hours, and so Ravi went to his friend's room and turned on his webcam and saw him making out with the guy. This is a screencap of his twitter account at that time.
So as you can see, he set up an ichat for anyone on his friends list (and all the people who were following anyone who retweeted that) to watch an intimate private moment, because he felt that it would be funny to expose Clementi as gay.
This goes beyond simply spying on someone and playing a "prank" as I've heard many say. This is about humiliation and degradation. Prior to even arriving at college, Ravi found out his roommate was gay and told a friend via instant message "My roommate is gay, fuck my life" He also mocked Clementi for being "poor" and considered him a shitty choice of a roommate due to his being poor more than his being gay.
And if that was all there was to it, I'd feel kinda bad for Ravi just because ten years is a long damn time. And there's not enough evidence to say that Ravi's actions are what directly led to Clementi killing himself. It may not have helped, but there's too much contradictory evidence saying that it was something else in Clementi's life that drove him to that bridge.
I think Ravi DEFINITELY deserved punishment, but ten years is a lot. And I was ready to say "you know what, this might be a bit much ONLY because we could not say unequivocably that it was Ravi's actions that caused his death. If we could, I'd say ten years was too light and that he should get much more. As it is, as Nicholson said, I'm conflicted.
That was until I read the following little tidbit:
Ravi rejected two plea deals before the case went to trial. In October, he declined a plea bargain that would have come with a recommended sentence of three to five years in prison, but with a chance that the judge could waive any prison time. And in December, he rejected a deal that would have allowed him to avoid jail altogether, and instead be put on probation and be required to perform 600 hours of community service and receive counseling. The state would have also helped him try to stave off any attempt by the federal government to deport him.
Now there were some legal minds that suggested that the state help would not have really been able to do much in any deportation case, and that Ravi did not want to admit to something he did not do, because he genuinely did not feel that he did anything criminal.
And a jury trial is a constitutional right. And most times I think it's terrible how the system basically forces you to give up your right to a trial by loading you up with bullshit charges to intimidate you into taking a plea deal instead of letting you fight it. Especially when you know for a fact you didn't do what they are accusing you of.
That said, this guy was not innocent! I understand if you want to say "well he didn't intend for Clementi to kill himself" or something like that, but he DID film Clementi without his knowledge with the intent of humiliating him. He did this because Clementi was gay. That's the ONLY reason he did it. For those who say that he would have done it, if it was a woman, I'd say get real. The two situations carry enormous differences.
So this isn't a case of Ravi being railroaded on charges that are made up. He did what he was accused of. So if you are facing ten years in prison and deportation, and you have an option to plead guilty to doing what you did (whether you think it was wrong or not) and go home that day, sleep in your bed, hug your family, stay in this country (providing the State Dept. would be able to help) and do some community service and probation, then you BETTER DAMN WELL TAKE THAT DEAL!
The fact that he was so arrogant that he refused to do that because he didn't feel he was wrong, then I have a VERY hard time feeling bad for him. There are thousands and thousands of people every day who are persecuted for real. Who are having their rights denied, who are forced into taking shitty pleas that still put them in prison due to racist politics who don't have the benefit of your golden parachute deal there that you spit on.
So I have a hard time mustering up sympathy for him. As I said, he may not have intended to drive Clementi to suicide, but he intended to humiliate and torment Clementi and expose what Ravi felt was a secret to those he knew would mercilessly torment him.
And with so many LGBT youth committing suicide due to bullying that was happening at that time, he was a fool if he didn't even imagine that was a possibility. Instead of feeling bad for Ravi, I'll feel bad for Tyler Clementi's family and friends. Those who will never get to see their son, brother, friend again. Who will never hear his voice. Who will experience another day of his existence.
Ravi's family will be able to see him again, even if it is in prison. They'll hear his voice. They'll get letters from him. Same with his friends. They are only denied Ravi in a limited way. They still get to have their son, brother and friend in this world.
Something that Tyler's family will never have again.
So in that sense, I suppose, once again the bullies win.