Tag Archive | "Dharun Ravi"

20-Day Jail Term Ends for Ex-Rutgers Student Convicted in Hate Crime

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NORTH BRUNSWICK, NEW JERSEY – The former Rutgers University student convicted of using his Web cam to spy on his roommate having sex with another man, left jail last week, less than three weeks after he began a 30-day jail sentence.

Dharun Ravi, 20, became something of a national antiposter boy for bullying not long after beginning his freshman year at Rutgers in fall 2010. Just a few weeks after school began, the freshman set up a Web cam to spy on Tyler Clementi, his roommate, who requesting their shared room so he could host a date.

Clementi, 19, killed himself days later, after learning that Ravi had invited others to watch the two men engaging in sex. Ravi was convicted in March of 15 criminal charges, some of which carried penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment.

Because Ravi was not charged in Clementi’s death, Judge Glenn Berman of Superior Court sentenced him to 30 days in jail, three years of probation, 300 hours of community service, and fined him $10,000, which is to be paid to a fund that helps victims of bias crimes. Last week, federal immigration officials announced they will not seek to deport Ravi to his native country, India.

Convicted Rutgers Student Apologizes for Spying on Tyler Clementi

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The former Rutgers University student convicted in the suicide of his late roommate, Tyler Clementi—who jumped off the George Washington Bridge in 2010—has apologized for what he called “stupid” and “insensitive” actions on his part towards Clementi. On Tuesday, Dharun Ravi said that he would surrender to authorities today, and will begin his 30-day prison sentence for the conviction. Prosecutors have appealed the court’s light sentence of Ravi, 20, who was convicted of hate crimes for using a Web cam to spy on Clementi’s intimate encounter with another man in their dorm room. The teen took his own life, just days after he learned of Ravi’s actions. “My behavior and actions, which at no time were motivated by hate, bigotry, prejudice or desire to hurt, humiliate or embarrass anyone, were nonetheless the wrong choices and decisions,” wrote Ravi. “I apologize to everyone affected by those choices.”

30-Day Sentence for Rutgers Webcam Suicide Defendant

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ —On Monday, Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student whose roommate committed suicide after learning that Ravi had used a Webcam to spy upon his encounter with another gay man, was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Ravi, 20, a legal resident of the U.S. born in India, was convicted on March 15 of 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy, which is considered a hate crime in New Jersey. The case, which began with 18-yearold Tyler Clementi’s September 2010 leap off the George Washington Bridge, raised national awareness about the suicides of gay teenagers who have been subjected to bullying, and focused LGBT advocates and opponents alike on the law’s application of hate crimes statutes.

Judge Glenn Berman spent several minutes admonishing Ravi for the behavior he had exhibited towards Clementi. “You lied to your roommate who placed his trust in you without any conditions, and you violated it,” Berman said. “I haven’t heard you apologize once.” The judge’s verbal workingover of Ravi made the relatively light sentence all the more surprising when it was announced. Prosecutors were shocked at the sentence, and say they will appeal.


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The jury’s verdict last Friday in State of New Jersey vs. Dharun Ravi was foundational in many important ways, and gave me reason, for a change, to be grateful for the rational system of jury trials that was established under our Constitution. Having lived through the 1995 O.J. Simpson verdict, I know that this isn’t always a sure thing.

Having spent much of the past three weeks thinking my way through this case from all sides, my conclusion is that the right decision was handed down by a panel of honest citizens who, to their eternal credit, agonized over the ultimate fate of an emotionally-tortured Tyler Clementi.

Clementi was a mere 18 years old when he decided on his own that life was so not-worth-living that he would deprive his parents, family, and people who cared about him the privilege of knowing what kind of man he would grow up to become.

But the jury’s decision will resonate forever on the way in which we as a society look at bullying. These honorable men and women had to weigh the horrible consequences of Clementi’s roommate’s boorish, churlish, seemingly-incorrigible teenaged behavior with the type of man he, too, will ultimately become.

Dharun Ravi is by accounts not a bad kid, just one who is endowed with a casual homophobia that is to be heard in high school and college locker rooms as often, frankly, as it is to be heard on the streets and in the taverns of South Florida’s own gay village. “Oh my God, did you see who ‘she’ took home last night,” is a familiar refrain that may be heard to be regurgitated from one end of the Drive to the other end of Dixie on any given. Not all churlish, boorish behavior originates with the straights.

Ravi’s behavior has been chronicled so often that I need not recount his demonization of a gay roommate’s intimate encounter with a trick the latter had met online. “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with another dude. Yay,” he tweeted, and then again later, “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and 12. Yes it’s happening again.” Someone, somehow, had a problem with the gays.

Whatever was going through Clementi’s tortured psyche at the moment he posted on Facebook, “Jumping off the gw [George Washington] bridge sorry,” we know the end result.

Time stamps show that Clementi posted his suicide note at 8:42 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2010, four minutes before Ravi sent a 266-word apology to Clementi, at 8:46 p.m. It read in part: “I want to explain what happened Sunday night when you requested to have someone over. I didn’t realize you wanted the room in private.” Ravi attests to a lack of homophobia and a tolerance for Clementi’s sexuality: “I’ve known you were gay and I have no problem with it,” he texted Clementi. “In fact one of my closest friends is gay and he and I have a very open relationship. I just suspected you were shy about it which is why I never broached the topic. I don’t want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding, its adding to my guilt.”

We don’t know if Clementi ever read Ravi’s apology, or whether it would have had—or did in fact have—any effect on the tragedy to come. We do know that Ravi, who was 18 years old at the time, was acting like any teen I’ve ever met when he deleted 86 text messages he had sent to his high school friends in the days after Clementi’s suicide, clearly an attempt to cover his tracks.

As the jury found, “boys will be boys” (and “girls will be girls”) is no longer a legal justification for inflicting mental harm and infringing upon someone’s privacy because of whom they identity as. This is foundational, and will resonate, Butterfly Effect-like, in schoolyards and in classrooms— secular and religious—until they turn the lights out.

My boyfriend has a much younger, younger brother. By the time he turns the age I now am, I will have been playing pinochle with John Adams, Dorothy Parker, and Liberace for at least half a decade. His children— regardless of whether he turns out gay or straight—will have no concept of the degree of bullying with which men of a certain age or even younger had to contend. That is seminal.

“The embarrassment of ridicule is always painful. The sting is greater when someone you hold close inflicts it. Shouldn’t the consequences be unforgiving?” asked Dean Trantalis, a local attorney and gay rights activist and advocate following the verdict.

The estimable former Vice Mayor of Fort Lauderdale was echoing the sentiments of numerous Americans, LGBT and straight, who see this as an object lesson to bullies and victims everywhere, but most especially in a nation where the rule of law prevails, rather than the rule of men, and I agree.

But Dharun Ravi, now 20 and by the reckoning of our base-10 numbering system very much a teenager, deserves, if not our sympathy, then certainly a chance at his life. He may yet turn it into something that honors what Clementi, his first victim, may have become. There are two victims of the teenaged Dharun Ravi’s bad, bad judgment. I hope the judge recommends deportation.


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Dharun Ravi Case Could Set Electronic Privacy Precedent


NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — On March 16, a jury convicted a former Rutgers University student who used his Webcam to spy on his college roommate Tyler Clementi’s intimate encounter with another man. Dharun Ravi, 20, was convicted of all 15 counts including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy, which is considered a sex crime in New Jersey. Yet, to members of the jury, the impact of Clementi’s own Twitter notes and on-line behavior presented the most damning evidence in the case.

“It was pretty hard to think about Tyler, because he wasn’t present to give his thoughts,” juror Kashad Leverett, 20, said after the trial. Quoted in the New York Times, Leverett added, “..in the evidence that was provided, it showed that he believed he was being intimidated because of his sexual orientation.”

The trial sent a cautionary message to all those who use Twitter and other social media sites that there are consequences, sometimes dire ones, in the use of technology. “This should be a cautionary tale for a lot of people….You often don’t think that what you’re doing could lead to criminal prosecution,” said Eric Nemecek, co-chair of the AmericanBar Association’s Criminal Justice Cybercrime Committee, reported in USA Today.

This case could set a precedent, impacting constitutional rights to privacy. “[People] aren’t going to be exempt from liability just because they are hiding behind a Twitter handle,” according to John Verdi of the Electronic Public Information Center.

“While the law was used appropriately in this particular case, we must be careful—as a society—to not give the government broad power to censor filming of individuals or events,” he said. “Any such laws have the potential to be misused by the government to squelch discourse on matters of public concern.” Ravi—who was 18 years old at the time–set up a Web camera on Sept. 19, 2010, after his roommate, Tyler Clementi, requested privacy in their room for several hours that night. Unbeknownst to Clementi at the time, Ravi and a female friend had watched the encounter.

Ravi then posted on Twitter: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with another dude. Yay [sic].” Subsequently, Ravi sent Twitter and text messages to encourage others to watch. Clementi, 18, jumped from the George Washington Bridge three days after the Webcam viewing, on Sept. 22, 2010–barely three weeks into the men’s freshman year. During the trial, Clementi’s death was only mentioned in passing, but his suicide was the central, defining issue of the proceeding, altering what might have been—in the words of the dormitory’s resident assistant—“a roommate issue,” or at worst, a peeping Tom case, into something with far more ruinous consequences for both men.

Judge Glenn Berman took more than an hour to instruct jurors on the criteria to render a verdict. Following 13 days of testimony spread over a three-week period, the jury, which consisted of seven women and five men, deliberated for 13 hours before finding Ravi guilty of all charges.

Over the 13 days of testimony, prosecutors pointed to Clementi’s checking Ravi’s Twitter feed 38 times after he learned of his roommate’s first Webcam viewing on Sept. 19, 2010. Following that first incident, Ravi told others that he had witnessed Clementi “kissing a dude.” The dorm’s resident assistant testified that Clementi had complained to him about Ravi’s conduct, and computer records show that Clementi had gone online to request a room reassignment.

The jurors found Ravi guilty of bias intimidation because Clementi “reasonably believed” he was made a target because of his sexuality. He was likewise found guilty of lying to investigators, trying to influence a witness, and tampering with evidence after attempting to cover up his text and Twitter messages inviting others to watch.

Some of the counts again Ravi mandate a 5 to 10 year prison sentence. Ravi, who is originally from India, has surrendered his passport. He faces possible deportation to his native country, a decision that will be made by immigration officials. Ravi’s criminal sentencing has been scheduled for May 21. From the outset, the case has been seen as having the potential to redefine how society views hate crimes and the proper way to punish bullying behavior. Some legal experts and Ravi’s own attorneys argued that the trial was an attempt to criminalize bad teenaged behavior.

Middlesex County, New Jersey prosecutor Bruce Kaplan told reporters that the trial sent a strong message against bullying and in support of victims. “They felt the pain of Tyler,” Kaplan said of the jurors. Ravi had rejected plea deals, because his lawyers said he did not believe he had committed a hate crime, for which a plea would have required his admission. They argued that Ravi was “a kid” with little personal experience of gay people.

Almost none of the facts in the case were disputed. The defense stipulated to the prosecution’s contention that Ravi had set up a Web cam, and had viewed Clementi kissing a man whom he had met weeks earlier on a gay dating Web site.

Electronic evidence had established an enormous chain of damning evidence: dining hall swipe card and cellphone records, Twitter feeds, dorm surveillance cameras, and a “net flow analysis” that recreated the connections between various computers in the dormitory. His lawyers also acknowledged that Ravi sent messages via text and Twitter that enjoined others to watch Clementi and his male visitor two nights after the first encounter, and deleted those messages after Clementi’s suicide.

In the end, the jury decided that “boys will be boys” was an inadequate defense. One juror, Bruno Ferreira, told reporters after the verdict was read that he had voted guilty on the charge of bias intimidation because of Ravi’s multiple-tweet harassment of Clementi. “They were being done twice, not just one day,” Ferreira said.

Following the verdict, Tyler’s father, Joe Clementi, who attended the trial every day with his wife, Jane, described the “painful” experience of listening for three weeks to the “bad and inappropriate things that were done to their child.”

To teenagers everywhere, Joe Clementi offered words of tolerance, encouragement, and warning: “You’re going to meet a lot of people in your lifetime. Some of these people you may not like. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you have to work against them. When you see somebody doing something wrong, tell them: ‘That’s not right. Stop it.’ The change you want to see in the world begins with you.”

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