After the Dharun Ravi Trial

Monday, March 19, 2012

Nancy Solomon, managing editor of New Jersey Public RadioEmily Bazelon, senior editor and court watcher at Slate, and WNYC reporter Arun Venugopal offer legal analysis of the Ravi conviction and the precedent this verdict sets.

Comments [61]

GW from Manhattan

What Clementi did was not just weird it was CREEPY... yes creepy that word that is thrown at people that have sex in a semi public place ( a shared college dorm room ) with much older strangers (in our ageist society) Ravi has to go to jail for 10 years because of Tyler's creepy sexual acts in Ravi's personal space? Ravi was the one that was traumatized..

Mar. 20 2012 11:22 AM
uscdadnyc from NY NY

I contend that Clemente died b/c he made a Bad Choice. NOT in the choice of his Lifestyle, BUT in the person he chose to have a Liasion with. B.M. (I believe the Court named him) was Older and possibly Disheveled (my words not the Court). Had B.M. been a Young "Adonis" w/ features of a Michelangelo's David, would Clemente have committed Suicide? I Think Not.

Mar. 19 2012 08:26 PM
Debbie Yorizzo

Lesbian and gay hearts can be paranoid enough; we don't need technology in our bedrooms. With all the viewing of two gay men making love, perhaps Ravi is a repressed homosexual. Technology was Ravi's weapon. He needs to be educated on a day in the life of a lesbian and gay human being. Oh, let's see, we wake up, go to work, care for our families, and then spread love around the world. Before his May walled vacation, he should visit the LGBT centers in New York, and learn about diversity.

Mar. 19 2012 07:07 PM
Ron from Manhattan

while it is true that a person who has problems, such as depression, or any other problem, family life, bullying, or anything else it still takes someone to pull the trigger. Ravi is the one who pulled that trigger, causing clemente to take his life. Although I do not think that he should be charged with murder, I do not think the sentence was too harsh. After all, I,too, went to college and was thrilled to be spoken to as "mr." I was very much aware of my advanced sexuality and fought to preserve it. However, it would stop short, very short, of causing suicide.

Mar. 19 2012 06:12 PM

dangerous precedent- a conviction for something, that is a half step removed from a thought crime.

Mar. 19 2012 12:51 PM
Peter from North Carolina

Great all around coverage of this Brian. Great mix of phone calls and views. You got the story right because I can't figure out how I think on the matter!

Mar. 19 2012 12:17 PM
nomarr from nyc

It is kind of ironic - Ravi is now experiencing or has been experiencing what public notoriety (sp.)can do to you.

Mar. 19 2012 12:13 PM
CB from NYC

In a rush to defend homosexual rights license is given to gays to sometimes violate other's sensibilities. As if homosexual sex is sacrosanct and allowable when heterosexual activities are not. This is not the intent and should not be the intent to deal with a negative Judeo Christian bias towards homosexual human beings which was and is clearly wrong. Ravi should not be the whipping boy. Will from the Bronx is 100% correct. Why are we not condemning Clemente's irresponsibility? Is it because he was gay and being gay gives one a pass on responsibility for your sexual actions?

Mar. 19 2012 11:38 AM
Guinn Roberts from Princeton

The people who are ssying community service should be Ravi's punishment need to be reminded that he was offered a plea deal and community service but that Ravi refused it and chose to go to trial.

Mar. 19 2012 11:24 AM

re: Elaine Sabal from NYC

No one knows how much a role the humiliation caused by the spying incident contributed to Clementi's death. It REALLY is wrong of people to keep drawing a direct line between the 2 incidents.
Also, if you don't want people to come after you, don't make snarky remarks on Twitter - especially about a very sad and tragic case. You can't go kicking dogs and then complain when they chomp on your leg. Personally I think it is great that people took you to task for tweeting such an ugly comment.

Mar. 19 2012 11:17 AM
just plain anxious from Forest Hills, NY

i think arun ravis behavior was truly awful but he did not cause tyler clemente to commit suicide. i think ravi is simply being scape goated because people understandably need a target to direct their unbearable grief and anger at. no one can cause another persons suicide. suicidal indicators are lacking at best, or we would be able to prevent suicide. many people endure bullying and hate crimes and do not kill themselves. tyler clemente took his own life and that is not ravis fault. still my heart goes out to the family of tyler clemente. my brother was gay and committed suicide. in the beginning i wanted to blame anyone AND everyone for his death. the person i blamed the most was myself for not seeing what i was seeing. it took years for me to realize my brother took his own life, caused his own suicide, not anyone else. it a hard realization to live with.

Mar. 19 2012 11:14 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

JH and will from the bronx, nah...

Mar. 19 2012 11:14 AM
will from Bronx

1. It's wrong to transform Tyler Clementi into a saintly, fragile victim in this case. I'm not defending what Ravi did, but I find it annoying that Clementi has been stripped of any agency or responsibility for what happened. He took his own life, but we've all settled on this vague idea that he was "driven" to suicide, as if he had no other choice in the face of Ravi's devastating tweets. But the fact is that Clementi did have many, many options for getting away from Ravi. He could had switched rooms immediately, or he could have simply gone home if he didn't feel safe. All of these are obviously better than jumping off a bridge. And the idea that he was too emotionally shell shocked to consider his options for dealing with Ravi is not born out in his own behavior that day.

2. I'd challenge anyone on this thread to think back to their freshman dorm room experience. What if your roommate of two weeks--someone you barely knew--kicked you out of the room with little notice to have casual sex with a much older man he met on the internet? That's what Clementi did, and it's weird. I know that if Twitter existed when I was in college I would have posted something snotty on par with Ravi's comments. Ravi crossed a line with his spying that should have gotten him expelled from school, but Clementi was also an agent in the situation. If his relationship with Ravi was growing toxic he could have taken it upon himself to resolve it in any number of, for instance, establishing ground rules for when each roommate would get the room, and what kinds of guests everyone feels comfortable with bringing to the room. It's not hard. People have been dealing with weirdo roommates forever! Clementi was a victim, but that doesn't mean he was passive or helpless.

3. We're talking about roommate politics, and Ravi is facing ten years in prison.

4. Internet culture has not been well understood by the criminal justice system. All of Brian's guests seem to agree that tweets give us a complete picture of what someone is thinking. This is a dangerous misconception. Twitter allows us to see in real time only what someone wants to publish to his or her Twitter community. We shouldn't fall into the illusion that Twitter is the whole story. Real conversations and real world actions supplement and supercede tweets. So it's wrong to conclude that since no one challenged Ravi's tweets on Twitter that his tweets went unchallenged. We have no idea what anyone actually said to him. We have no idea what he was "actually" thinking; all we know is what he wanted to tweet. There's a big difference! That's why mixing tweets with hate crimes legislation (designed to punish someone's motive), leads to miscarriages of justice.

Mar. 19 2012 11:08 AM
Jacob from LI

I think Ravi was overcharged and now overpunished.

Mar. 19 2012 11:07 AM

A very sad tragedy for both families, but the redefinition is interesting; now "gossip"--where the person spoken about was never intended to find out about the gossip-- is the same as "bullying" and "tormenting"--where the perpetrator would have directly confronted the victim via email or on social media in either an insulting or threatening way.

Someone finding out what you did behind his back, makes -you- liable for his decisions. Should adultery be illegal because it's led to the suicide of many a significant other? It -is- tormenting to the cuckold. Is that not bullying? It seems a few degrees worse than talking about someone.

This decision might be one that changes society at large, from gossip columns to tabloid media, to TMZ, to Perez Hilton, to Joan Rivers, to making fun of red carpet fashion choices, to paparazzi; an entire sector of society should be filling out job aps or shopping for accessories to match orange jumpsuits.

Mar. 19 2012 11:06 AM

This case is just one example from a host of incidences which demonstrate that this kind of harassment is accepted as socially acceptable, and even "cool" behavior. The rest of the students became gluttons for gossip and scandal, drawn to it like flies towards crap. It's also interesting to have heard people demonstrating such a callous attitude towards the victim, and writing off the suicide as symptoms of his emotional instability. The fact is that the actions of Ravi and the other students were a major contributing cause to the victims suicide. I think that this type of malicious, disgusting anti-social behavior should not be tolerated.

Mar. 19 2012 10:55 AM
Amy from Manhattan

There are so many comments I want to respond to, but I don't have enough time. I just want to tell ara peters, first, that I'm very sorry to hear she lost her child to suicide (I had a friend who killed himself when I was in college, & it still affects me strongly) & second, that I feel the same way about the use of "committed." I usually say someone "killed him- or herself" to avoid that, & I appreciate your offering a different way to say it.

I also hope Rutgers has put a policy in place to expedite students' requests to change dorm rooms if their roommates are doing things like spying on them, whether out of bias or for any reason.

Mar. 19 2012 10:54 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Vinny_G, no. Or are you trying to be ironic?

Mar. 19 2012 10:52 AM
JH from Queens

Why does Ravi have to go to jail because of Tyler Clemente's tortured psychology? If Ravi is 18 and new to college that means that her is not much more than 2 years after his 16th birthday confronted with a room mate that violates Ravi's sensibilities and perhaps safety by bring strange non university men into Ravi's own room to have sex with. Why are we telling Ravi not to be upset about that ? His handling of the situation was immature but he is a college student who has spent his 13 years of growing (from 5 years old ) in school and trying to get into college .. Ravi was in no way prepared by society or experience to deal with this situation as a 40 year old critic or juror would. If Clemente was ashamed of being gay his shame did not in any way temper his sexual appetite and willingness to disrespect Ravi while he exposed Ravi to Clemente's need irresponsible lusts for sex with strange men in his school dorm room!. Ravi is trying to go to school and get his degree and Clemente is very busy exploring his sexuality in Ravi's shared space. Clemente took his own life. He is solely responsible for his own death.

Mar. 19 2012 10:50 AM
john from office

Judge Fuva, hang them high

Mar. 19 2012 10:49 AM
Vinny_G from UWS of NYC

I tend to agree with Mike_G that Ravi's right to privacy was violated by Tyler's using their dorm room for that activity. There really is no expectation of privacy in a shared dorm room and Tyler's partner should have invited him to a truly private place for a liaison, or at the very least, thrown a towel over the web cam when he noticed it.

Mar. 19 2012 10:46 AM
Gail Z from Fair Lawn, NJ

There are two sides to the privacy coin, as Mike G. points out. I went to college in a far less permissive era when members of the opposite sex were not allowed in dorm rooms and, therefore, no sexual encounters took place there. Tyler could have been more sensitive to Dharun's Indian origin. I have been to India four times and believe that homosexuality is still illegal there. It is also a country where many men and women enter marriage without having had any sexual experience and often with a partner of their families' choice. I'm sure that there was also an element of curiosity about what Tyler was doing in Dharun's behavior, which came out as poking fun at him. As to Tyler's suicide, I believe that he had recently come out to his parents, and we don't know how they accepted the news and what impact that might have had on him.

Mar. 19 2012 10:44 AM

RE: Below

I, in no way mean to infer that the pain and suffering that Clemeti and his family has suffered is in ANY WAY equivalent to what Ravi has or will experience.

There is no equivalency, here.

Mar. 19 2012 10:44 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

HughSansom, nah. Ravi initiated the mob effect. Then he fanned the flames a second time, when he could have let it be. The other operative, Wei, took the plea. Ravi rejected it.

Mar. 19 2012 10:41 AM
Kikakiki from New York City

I allowed you to come to my house (U.S.) you behaved poorly I am telling you have to leave - why do we have such problem deporting people? Part of allowing people to come to the U.S. is the agreement that you will abide by our rules - if free speech is again the law in your country you have to respect free speech while you are her, if homosexuality is frowned on in your country you have to respect it here - if you do not abide by the laws of this country you must leave. Why should we pay to incarcerate this kid send him back to his country

Mar. 19 2012 10:39 AM
Elaine Sabal from NYC

I made a joke on twitter "Now Rutgers bully Dharun Ravi can spy on all the gay sex he wants to in prison" and received some nasty replies from @freeravi.

Ravi's supporters basically accused me of being sick and thoughtless. They still defended Mr. Ravi as "only a prank" and "keeping an eye on his belongings" and then even proceeded to call Tyler Clementi an "idiot".

What's sick is pointing a camera at your roommate's bed and inviting your friends to watch. If I were concerned with my belongings, then maybe I would have pointed the camera at my belongings and not at someone's bed. I'm sorry if they were offended by my joke, but at least no one has ever died because of my "pranks".

I think the ten year sentence is a bit harsh, but Mr. Ravi's very intentional actions caused an unintentional death. I'm surprised he wasn't charged with second degree manslaughter.

It's also ironic that Dharun Ravi supporters are bullying Tyler Clementi sympathizers on the web, no?

Mar. 19 2012 10:37 AM
William from Manhattan

I'm with Cory. Why would anyone support a reduction of sentence to community service for Dharun Ravi? He was offered a plea bargain down to community service at the outset. He refused the offer, gambling with the state's money and choosing a long trial that brought further distress to the Clementi family. His team should shut up and he should do the time.

Mar. 19 2012 10:34 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Think "Amy from Manhattan" raises a good point.
There are laws that are/not enforced based on the harm done. Invasion of privacy is one, as are laws related to underage drinking, fighting, etc. Like Emily Bazelon said, once Tyler killed himself and the cops got involved, it was out of the hands of Rutgers and no longer just a "stupid prank" (which, again, never made it not a crime).

Mar. 19 2012 10:33 AM
Amy from Manhattan

antonio, the legal definition of a term isn't always the same as what it means in regular conversation. Often it overlaps but is more specific. The jury was asking about the legal definition & what was required for the defendant's behavior to meet that definition.

Mar. 19 2012 10:33 AM
SuzyS from NYC

How about all the homophobia coming from elected officials such as Gov. Chris Chrisie himself. When is that language accounable. As an attorney, i would have at least mentioned it: i.e. same sex marriage should be put to a vote, really a vote?

Mar. 19 2012 10:29 AM

I'm curious: Has Dharun Ravi at any time shown remorse? I think his family and lawyers did him a disservice if they told him not to say anything--he should have begged forgiveness from Clementi's family, but to my knowledge this hasn't happened, and admit his folly. I think if he had, the jury would have been much more forgiving.

Mar. 19 2012 10:29 AM
Ciely from NJ

Casual cruelty has the effect on the victim of making life incomprehensible. There's almost no way to mentally process
the enormous pain doled out for no reason. It depletes any life affirming potential.

Mar. 19 2012 10:28 AM
Lindsay from NJ

Would it ever qualify as a hate crime if it were targeted at a woman? Doubtful.

Mar. 19 2012 10:28 AM
antonio from bayside

There was a report on Friday that indicated that the jury had asked what the meaning of intimidation?
Was this really true?

Mar. 19 2012 10:27 AM
NJ Taxpayer from Bergen County

D Ravi should be deported for a minimum of 5 years!
NJ taxpayers SHOULD NOT pay for his incarceration!!

Mar. 19 2012 10:27 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Too many have a too simplistic understanding/ definition of bias and bias crime. This verdict is for their vital edification.
Let's absorb the lessons hopefully learned and move forward, the wiser.

Mar. 19 2012 10:27 AM
PV from nj

No South Asians on the Jury in middlesex county? ..Hmmmm

Mar. 19 2012 10:27 AM

This is a horrible and tragic incident. There should be ZERO tolerance for this type of behavior, intimidation and bullying of all kinds. However, is it possible to attach Tyler Clementi's suicide to this single episode? Was this incident the only contributing factor that led to Clementi's suicide?? Suicide is a complex and very desperate act. Dharun Ravi perpetrated a odious crime but I don't think he can be convicted of killing Clementi. When you're young, you do some EXTREMELY STUPID things. Dharun Ravi should be punished but, 10 years in prison...?? ...destroying yet another young person's life, is not right, either.

This is tragic for all; Ravi, Clementi and both their families.

Mar. 19 2012 10:26 AM
John A.

The things I've seen. I've seen video of a girl shot at a private party re-edited to make her into a skank and prostitute. I've seen people driven off the internet for years. I've seen a flashmob driven right to another girls doorstep. More Internet protection laws Please!

Mar. 19 2012 10:26 AM
ara peters from nyc

not to "nit-pick" a parent of a child who recently died by suicide (elizabeth 9/12/11) and as a member of POS....(parents of suicide)......we ask that the expression "committed suicide" be changed to died by suicide......"committed" is used like a crime or a would be sensitive to families of suicide to change the judgemental terminology.....thank you

Mar. 19 2012 10:25 AM
Peter Laudati from New Jersey

In 1999, the country collectively laughed at the glorification of similar sophomoric hi-jinks in American Pie:

In 2012, it can get you a potential 10 year jail sentence for this.
I believe what Ravi did was wrong. But he was an 18 year old college kid engaging in a totally stupid stupid prank. This is stuff kids have been doing for quite some time.

It is an absolute tragedy that Mr. Clementi committed suicide. We will never know what was going on in his tortured soul.

But the potential punishment that Ravi is going to face is excessive in my opinion. The penalties offered as part of the proposed plea deal earlier in this case would be more appropriate for one being found guilty of the privacy vioations. I believe the prosecution of this case was brought forth as harshly as possible to make up for the fact that there was no way to hold Ravi responsible for Clementi's suicide.

Mar. 19 2012 10:25 AM
MIke G from Manhattan

Does not Ravi have the right to NOT have this roomate violate his private space by bringing strange men into his own dorm room to have sex with and does he not have the right to know what is going on in his own room ? Ravi could have been put in danger by the irresponsible actions of Tyler. What was the composition of this jury. Was there a racist element here as Clemente was white and Ravi a dark, ethnic foreign student. Clemente was irresponsible and this was proven by his taking his own life. That suicide was in no way the Ravi's fault. This trial was a miscarriage of justice and this situation is not within the intent of hate crime law. Hate crime laws were made for situations like the case in Texas where a black man was dragged behind an automobile and killed, not for situations like this.

Mar. 19 2012 10:24 AM
Brian from Hoboken

I can't still can't say for sure that I think Ravi was prejudice against gays. Knowing the general acceptance of gays among younger kids these days, I just don't see that all the students in the dorm were excited to watch this video of Clementi. My gut tells me that if Tyler Clementi had an older woman visiting his room, the rumors and chatter in the dorm would have been the same. Therefore, I agree with the guilty verdicts for invasion of privacy, etc but not the bias intimidation charge.

Mar. 19 2012 10:23 AM
JT from LI

I really don't see the bias in this case. Would Ravi have invited people to join him and watch his roommate if he was against homosexuals? He would have probably been bothered that it took place in his room and done what he could to prevent it. He would have asked for a different roommate. Not watch it and let everyone know that he was watching it.

We're in a world where technology lets people do very stupid things and I'm sure thousands of other high school and college kids are using web cams inappropriately.

Mar. 19 2012 10:23 AM
Alison from Crown Heights, BKLYN

I am amazed that we are debating if Ravi should go to prison. He was convicted on ALL counts, so legally there is no question of that. Yet we are questioning if that is right on a moral level. Again, no question that on a moral level he belongs far, far away from society.

Mar. 19 2012 10:22 AM
Amy from Manhattan

How much is "bias intimidation" defined by the effect on the victim & how much by the intent of the perpetrator?

Does Ms. Solomon think the fact none of the testimony showed that Mr. Ravi's friends told him to stop what he was doing means that no one did or that it was a failure on the part of his lawyers?

Mar. 19 2012 10:21 AM
Victoria from New Rochelle

Why didn't he take the plea deal? Still don't get that.

Mar. 19 2012 10:20 AM

Hey so we are spied on daily by cameras everywhere...I feel VERY intimidated, can I sue someone?

Mar. 19 2012 10:19 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

The Criminal Justice system has always been used as a way to send messages about the unacceptability of certain behaviors. Here, a strong message should be sent to discourage ALL kinds of humiliation based on ALL kinds of bias.
Ravi is an adult in the eyes of the court. But he shouldn't get ten years. And he surely won't.

Mar. 19 2012 10:18 AM

Dharun Ravi's behavior was revolting, but the guest makes an absolutely essential point: There was a mob mentality effect here for which Dharun Ravi is now bearing all of the burden of guilt. He's guilty of a lot of things, but penalizing him for the collective behavior of dozens of college-aged bigots and morons is unjust.

Mar. 19 2012 10:18 AM

*Could* Mr. Ravi have been prosecuted without Taylor's suicide? Yes.

*WOULD* Mr. Ravi have been prosecuted without Taylor's death? I doubt it.

Guilty but sentencing should not take Taylor's death into account. Rutgers (even though they are my alma mater) bears the greater responsibility here. They need to have taken Taylor's complaints more seriously.

Mar. 19 2012 10:15 AM
Abigail from 11226

As a public school teacher I still feel very uncomfortable with the "No Tolerance" bullying stance. It feels to close to Rockefeller Drug Laws and ignores the potential of young people. These children need social support and coaching, jail and suspension do not work to change people.

Mar. 19 2012 10:14 AM
jen l from manahttan

No quesiton in my mind that what Ravi did was wrong and he should be punished. However, I am troubled by the fact these were college kids with not the best judgment in the first place, and possibly ten years seems like just too long.

So I blame Rutgers. If they had better supervision and support in place, the end result might have been different.

Mar. 19 2012 10:14 AM
Coleman Feeney from nyc

I disagree with the outcome of this case. For the prosecutor to say that the victim killing himself had nothing to do with this case going to trial is a bold face lie.

Mar. 19 2012 10:13 AM

He passed up a plea bargain that would have kept him out of jail and required community service. Having put the state to it's proof at a lengthy trial, he has to go to jail or else no one will take a plea and the system will be overwhelmed. That's the way the system works. Everyone in the system, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers understand that.

Mar. 19 2012 10:13 AM
Siobhan from Huntington

I am really shocked by that soundbyte from the Rutgers (male) student. He suffered "bad publicity" and that's enough? BUT FOR Ravi's actions Tyler would not have killed himself. This verdict is 100% correct and he NEEDS to serve time or be deported, anything less sends a terrible message to both the LGBT community and to anyone who has suffered at the hands of hateful intimidators. If this were a case of a racial hate crime the feelings would undoubtedly be clearer. (which is not to lessen any hate crime, they are all equally horrendous)

Mar. 19 2012 10:13 AM
Bob from Fairfield

I have been a supporter of gay rights for many years, but this has been a gross misuse of hate crime laws. There was no violence, not even a single slur, and yet this kid faces 10 years in prison.

Torch Song Trilogy was not about a peeping tom.

Mar. 19 2012 10:13 AM
bernie from bklyn

c'mon people, this is such a non-story. the media is shoving this down the throats of all of us and i don't understand why....yes, it's a sad story but that's it. do we really need to analyze and pick this apart, ad nauseum?
there are so many important things happening in the world right now; can we move on? please?

Mar. 19 2012 10:13 AM
Lisa from Flushing

Dharun Ravi tormented Tyler Clementi because he was gay. He was offered only 600 hours of community service for basically driving a human being to kill himself, and he turned it down. It goes to show how smug and remorseless he was. He thought he would walk.

Mar. 19 2012 10:12 AM
Julia Joseph from New York City

What I find interesting is that a kid is has been tried and convicted for hate crimes against homosexuality by a government that continues to marginalize and punish homosexuals. It seems rather hypocritical to me.

Mar. 19 2012 10:12 AM
John A.

Was the case resolved in a way that indicates the suicide was legally irrelevant?

Mar. 19 2012 10:10 AM

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