Dharun Ravi Found Guilty
March 16, 2012 12:20 PM   Subscribe

A jury found a former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi guilty of 15 charges of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation (under a relatively new New Jersey hate-crime statute) for secretly recording his roommate Tyler Clementi, who later committed suicide.
posted by to sir with millipedes (186 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
And now, a tragedy that has taught young people a lot of lessons, has taught them another one:

If you're guilty and there's proof that you're guilty and they offer you a deal, for God's sake, TAKE THE DEAL!

The bias charge was a possible question, but there was absolutely no question on the invasion of privacy charge, right?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:30 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, he turned down probation, 600 hours of community service, and state help against deportation... and now will get jail time and then probably deported. Even if he is absolutely sure he didn't do anything wrong, that deal isn't so bad compared to what he knew he was facing...
posted by wildcrdj at 12:32 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


As the NY Times pointed out, "The case was rare because almost none of the facts were in dispute."

I'm satisfied with the ruling.
posted by hermitosis at 12:32 PM on March 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


"The bias charge was a possible question, but there was absolutely no question on the invasion of privacy charge, right?"

My understanding is that the defense claim was that the webcam was set up because Ravi didn't trust the strange visitor not to steal shit, and so he pointed a webcam at the bed.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:33 PM on March 16, 2012


Oh god some of the comments under the article are just plain neanderthal (assuming neanderthals were fucking awful homophobic/racist idiots).
posted by omnikron at 12:35 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


How did they get 15 charges out of this incident?
posted by smackfu at 12:35 PM on March 16, 2012


and so he pointed a webcam at the bed.

'Cause, you know, those are some 600 thread count VALUABLE pillow cases...
posted by Eekacat at 12:36 PM on March 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


There has been sloppy reporting of the bias intimidation charges. New Jersey's bias intimidation statute covers situations in which the victim need only have a reasonable belief that the offense was committed because the victim's sexual orientation, etc., or that the victim was selected due to his having a certain sexual orientation, etc.

This means that Ravi could have been found guilty of bias intimidation, without the jury thinking that he intentionally targeted Clementi for his sexual orientation. Early reports of the verdict indicated that this may have been the case.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:37 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was absolutely gobsmacked when I heard the defense attorney offer up a form of the 'gay panic' defense in his closing arguments - that Ravi wasn't homophobic, he just was so shocked by his roomate's sexuality, he didn't know how to act appropriately.
posted by muddgirl at 12:40 PM on March 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


Oh I see, it should say "A jury found a former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi guilty of 15 charges including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation." Some of the other charges were for after-the fact hindering the investigation and witness tampering.
posted by smackfu at 12:42 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


My suspicion based on my own experience (and no knowledge of the internals of this case) is that his lawyer advised him to take the deal and that family pressure prevented him from doin so. Just a hunch.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:47 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some of the comments are disturbing as well as similar in writing style:

"I would rather my kid room with Ravi than a homosexual who brings chickenhawks back to the dorm for anonymous sex."

"Ravi was punished for having obliged his sick room mate when he wanted privacy. He should not have let him bring a street stranger to his room."

Although I think Ravi's actions were terrible, I do think there is something in them of immaturity. He was certainly ignorant, and sounds like a huge jerk, but Clementi was troubled and most people believe that if it weren't for Clementi's suicide, Ravi would not have been prosecuted.

I sincerely hope that the Clementi family is not hoping to gain relief from Ravi's conviction; if so I believe their grief will only be extended.

This adds a new note of tragedy to an already heartbreaking story.
posted by Eyeveex at 12:49 PM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


[Please do not do that. Everyone else, please flag and also move on, it saves me clicks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:49 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even though I think he should be punished (which he is), I still think this is just another layer of tragedy. Reading the details of the New Yorker article -- and earlier other 'deep research' articles that detailed all of Dharun Ravi and Tyler Clementi's online correspondence -- I really wish he would have taken that deal. What Ravi did was horrible, but he was more dumbfuck than bully, and it's just all so sad.

As for the Clementi family, though they never said it outright, many times in interviews, it seemed they wished he would have taken the deal too. They wanted him punished, but they definitely didn't want blood. I hope this helps somehow, but I'm sure it doesn't really.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:51 PM on March 16, 2012 [32 favorites]


If anybody is interested in this case, make sure you read the New Yorker article about it if you haven't already. It's such a sad story on all fronts.
posted by SpiffyRob at 12:52 PM on March 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


I feel like deportation is going to be a bigger punishment for this guy than any prison time. But deportation is definitely appropriate in this case.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:52 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seconding the New Yorker article above. I came here just to post it.
posted by monkeystronghold at 12:53 PM on March 16, 2012


I had the exact same reaction, Mike. Ravi was a dumb kid who did a dumb thing, and deserves punishment for it, but to try to turn him into a monster above and beyond that is a bit too black and white.
posted by SpiffyRob at 12:53 PM on March 16, 2012 [22 favorites]


What Ravi did was horrible, but he was more dumbfuck than bully, and it's just all so sad.
I dunno. I thought the whole point of the New Yorker article was that he was more bully than homophobe. But yeah, he should have taken the deal.

It feels really weird to me to deport someone who has basically lived his whole life in the US. It seems like a really arbitrary punishment.
posted by craichead at 12:54 PM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


My suspicion based on my own experience (and no knowledge of the internals of this case) is that his lawyer advised him to take the deal and that family pressure prevented him from doin so. Just a hunch.

Yeah, I can't imagine any lawyer on the planet not wanting to take that deal. I bet the family thought they were saving face by rolling the dice in court. It was a foolhardy idea, when the facts of the case were barely in dispute, and when you don't even need to prove intent to get a bias intimidation charge in NJ. Dumb dumb dumb, sad sad sad.

...

In other news, Bret Easton Ellis is weirdly supportive of Dharun Ravi: "FREE DHARUN RAVI. AN OUTRAGEOUS, (AND VAGUELY RACIST) VERDICT. COLLEGE PRANK REWRITTEN AS INVASION OF PRIVACY/BIAS IS RIDICULOUS. SHAMEFUL."
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:56 PM on March 16, 2012


From the article:

Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison on most serious bias intimidation convictions, but is likely to receive a lesser sentence based on sentencing guidelines because he is a first time offender.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:57 PM on March 16, 2012


Odd that Ravi gets blamed for the seeming injustice that he could be imprisoned for 10 years. So what if he doesn't take the deal... if we think 10 years is excessive, it's the prosecution that asked a jury to hand down the verdict that makes it possible.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is a decent article. Some of the other reporting on the case has made it sound like Ravi was being charged of playing some role in Clementi's death, and not just charged-with-invasion-of-privacy-and-by-the-way-the-victim-killed-himself-later-but-that's-not-prosecutable.

I've had a few frustrating conversations the past few days with basically decent people who were sort of rooting for Ravi on the misapprehension that he'd been charged with, I don't know, murder or manslaughter or some sort of death-cause-y offense along those lines.

He's obviously guilty on the invasion of privacy charges. I might have thought the court should go easy on him ("Poor confused kid, didn't realize the magnitude of his actions, was just feeling threatened and acting out, blah blah") but if he's guilty on the witness intimidation charges as well then leniency starts to look less appropriate. I've still got a bit of sympathy for the guy, the same way I've got sympathy for rapists and murderers who go to prison — prison sucks! it's no fun! in a perfect world, nobody would go there! — but within the world we live in and the legal framework we've got, it sounds like the court made the right decision.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


But Clementi was troubled and most people believe that if it weren't for Clementi's suicide, Ravi would not have been prosecuted.

IMO, the problem is that on-campus crimes are, for may reasons, often not prosecuted. I know it is very tempting to say "Boys will be boys" or "girls will be girls," but I have seen too many on-campus crimes brushed under the table with offenders being allowed to re-offend. We can see that on a micro-scale with Ravi - when he got away with the first incident, he planned a more ambitious one.

I had my share of shitty roomates in college. I understand that it sucks, but I still treated them like human beings.

(To BEE: My alma mater had a pretty serious pranking code, and this would absolutely have been a violation. The joy of a good prank involves the prankee - it does not exclude or other them.)
posted by muddgirl at 12:59 PM on March 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


I've had a few frustrating conversations the past few days with basically decent people who were sort of rooting for Ravi on the misapprehension that he'd been charged with, I don't know, murder or manslaughter or some sort of death-cause-y offense along those lines.

Yeah, all of the 22-year-old dudebros in my office are really sad that Ravi was convicted of "murder" "just because he played a practical joke."
posted by pineappleheart at 1:02 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder what would have happened if Clementi didn't kill himself. Would Ravi have been prosecuted? I mean, we'll never know, but I suspect it would not have gone this far. The question of innocence aside, I feel like Ravi's being punished more for Clementi's death than for only his actual actions.
posted by desjardins at 1:03 PM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


And I should add that they are VEHEMENT he was convicted of murder despite my attempts to point to any articles that say otherwise. (I was called a liberal for trying to show them actual news articles.)
posted by pineappleheart at 1:04 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Odd that Ravi gets blamed for the seeming injustice that he could be imprisoned for 10 years. So what if he doesn't take the deal... if we think 10 years is excessive, it's the prosecution that asked a jury to hand down the verdict that makes it possible.

He's not getting 10 years. 10 years is the maximum he could receive, according to the letter of the law.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:04 PM on March 16, 2012


I said "could" in my comment, sticher.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:06 PM on March 16, 2012


The New Yorker article also states that Ravi called Molly Wei (ostensibly his friend) a whore when she made it clear she wasn't romantically interested and that he lied about being a model for billboards in India.
posted by brujita at 1:07 PM on March 16, 2012


The New Yorker article also states that Ravi called Molly Wei (ostensibly his friend) a whore when she made it clear she wasn't romantically interested and that he lied about being a model for billboards in India.

What is the relevance of this?
posted by BobbyVan at 1:08 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I said "could" in my comment, sticher.

Right, but you also went on about 10 years being excessive in this case, which is misleading. Ravi will almost certainly not actually face 10 years, even in sentencing.

I'm basically okay with 10 years being possible for a possible bias intimidation charge, just not in this particular case. Even with the same underlying charges, there are even more flagrant ways to invade someone's privacy, and there are even more hateful ways to target someone for their sexual orientation. I can think of a case where Ravi could have behaved so horribly, that I would be fine with him rotting away in prison for 10 years.

Back in the real world, if Ravi actually gets 10 years for this bias intimidation charge, then I'll buy you a Coke.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:11 PM on March 16, 2012


I wonder what would have happened if Clementi didn't kill himself. Would Ravi have been prosecuted? I mean, we'll never know, but I suspect it would not have gone this far. The question of innocence aside, I feel like Ravi's being punished more for Clementi's death than for only his actual actions.

...and again, I think that's probably true and I also think it's a terrible shame that victims have to die before perpetrators are held accountable.
posted by muddgirl at 1:12 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


What is the relevance of this?

This isn't court. It's not relevant to the court case, it is relevant to whether he's a douche bag or not.

(I'm going with yes, giant douche nozzle)
posted by PissOnYourParade at 1:12 PM on March 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


What is the relevance of this?

Not entirely sure myself, but it could be part of the "tampering with evidence and a witness" charge.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:13 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't see any way to interpret the known facts of the case other than that Ravi lied from the moment the tragedy that occurred in the aftermath of his actions became apparent. He lied about his actions, he tried to cover up the evidence of his actions, he tried to enlist others to aid in covering up his actions. Most of his court defense were based on transparent lies. He has never really taken responsibility for his actions. If he had been honest, taken responsibility for his unquestioned actions (deliberately spying on his roommate and attempting to facilitate others spying on his roommate) and only defended himself against the questionable assertion of bias there is little doubt he would have been offered an even more favorable plea deal based simply on his admitting of his unambiguous crimes. I find nothing excessive about this potential sentence.
posted by nanojath at 1:13 PM on March 16, 2012 [21 favorites]


(I put that rather awkwardly, because I don't think we can blame individuals for other's suicides, but I don't think Ravi is being blamed for Clementi's suicide.)
posted by muddgirl at 1:14 PM on March 16, 2012


I wonder what would have happened if Clementi didn't kill himself. Would Ravi have been prosecuted?
I think probably not. For one thing, I think victims are probably reluctant to press charges in this kind of case, because the resulting publicity would just invade their privacy even more. But so what? The question is whether he's guilty of the things he was charged with, not whether he'd get away with it if the circumstances were different.
posted by craichead at 1:15 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Good point, nanojath. Heck, Ravi started lying before that - he lied in an email/message he wrote to Clementi before he knew about the suicide.
posted by muddgirl at 1:16 PM on March 16, 2012


My God, he didn't take that deal?

To me, that makes it more likely that he did act out of homophobia, or at least from a conviction that homosexuality is absolutely wrong (assuming a difference there), and expected to be vindicated on that basis.
posted by jamjam at 1:19 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the New Yorker article: It became widely understood that a closeted student at Rutgers had committed suicide after video of him having sex with a man was secretly shot and posted online. In fact, there was no posting, no observed sex, and no closet.

From the FPP article: A jury found a former Rutgers University student guilty of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation charges in the webcam-spying trial, deciding that he was motivated by homophobia when he streamed video of his roommate’s intimate encounter with another man.

How are these both correct?
posted by desjardins at 1:19 PM on March 16, 2012


How are these both correct?

IIRC:

There was embracing in the first stream, but no sex.

The second stream was announced, but it never actually went off.

As for "no closet," that just means that Clementi was already "out" to his family and some other people.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:22 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


BobbyVan: What is the relevance of this?
PissOnYourParade: This isn't court. It's not relevant to the court case, it is relevant to whether he's a douche bag or not.
Right, but you don't actually get jail time for being a douchebag.

Also, even if 10 is only a maximum possible charge... I loathe that across the political spectrum there is a belief in large and "round number" jail terms. I.e., "He should get 5 years!" "He should get 10 years!" Why, because 1,826 days in jail is somehow more meaningful than some other length? Would he learn more from days 31-1,826 than he did in the first 30? Do we even care anymore about rehabilitation, or do we just want to lock someone up and forget them?

It's so easy- costs nothing to you, in fact- for people to bandy about sentence lengths for someone else. As if one more month or one more year isn't a huge thing, as if every day in prison isn't a horrible thing to undergo. But hey, "5 years- no, 10- no, 20!" is effortless on your part. You spend no more energy saying "five years" than you do saying "ten years"- but for the person in prison, that extra 5 years is... well, it's unimaginable for you. Luckily, you won't ever be in prison!

The way in which people talk about punishment for someone they don't like is often a perfect example of the same type of dehumanization that is at the heart of most crimes that actually are tried and convicted. That other person isn't you, so pile on and treat the "object" as harshly as it takes to give you that fleeting moment's thrill and catharsis... before you completely forget the name of the victim and the convicted by lunchtime tomorrow.
posted by hincandenza at 1:23 PM on March 16, 2012 [33 favorites]


'streamed video' does not mean the same thing as 'posted online', and 'intimate encounter' does not mean the same thing as 'having sex.'
posted by muddgirl at 1:24 PM on March 16, 2012


the victim need only have a reasonable belief that the offense was committed because the victim's sexual orientation

Wow, that seems a bit like presuming guilt to me, especially if the bias element results in harsher sentencing.
posted by Hoopo at 1:25 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh god some of the comments under the article are just plain neanderthal (assuming neanderthals were fucking awful homophobic/racist idiots).

No reason to believe the hominid line has deteriorated much since their time, omnikron.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:25 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that's one key detail that gets missed a lot: Unless I missed something, the streaming video was never accessible from anywhere other than Wei's computer, and wasn't saved (It was basically a video iChat.)
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:25 PM on March 16, 2012


the streaming video was never accessible from anywhere other than Wei's computer

...and anyone else who called Ravi's number on Skype.
posted by muddgirl at 1:26 PM on March 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


...which is what Ravi explicitely encouraged people to do, although Clementi caught him before anything could happen.
posted by muddgirl at 1:27 PM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Right, but you also went on about 10 years being excessive in this case, which is misleading. Ravi will almost certainly not actually face 10 years, even in sentencing.

I was reacting to the first two comments which lamented that Ravi had not "taken the deal." Of course I agree with you that he probably will not serve 10 years in prison.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:27 PM on March 16, 2012


That Ravi called Wei a whore is proof that he harasses women....which is also a chargeable offense; albeit not in this particular case.
posted by brujita at 1:29 PM on March 16, 2012


My God, he didn't take that deal?

To me, that makes it more likely that he did act out of homophobia, or at least from a conviction that homosexuality is absolutely wrong (assuming a difference there), and expected to be vindicated on that basis.


From the New Yorker article, it seemed to me that not taking the deal was consistent as much (if not more) with his strong arrogance and seeming lack of empathy in general, which a number of people described in regards to various unrelated incidents.
posted by scody at 1:31 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


That Ravi called Wei a whore is proof that he harasses women....which is also a chargeable offense; albeit not in this particular case.

That's absurd. How about we lock up Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher too...
posted by BobbyVan at 1:31 PM on March 16, 2012


I was reacting to the first two comments which lamented that Ravi had not "taken the deal."

I wasn't "blaming him", I'm just honestly shocked. It just seems like such a lenient deal that many people would take it rather than risk a lengthy prison sentence.

I think the verdict itself is quite reasonable, and can't really judge an as-yet-undecided sentence.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:31 PM on March 16, 2012


He sounds like a douchebag. Deportation is too good for him.
posted by infini at 1:31 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was reacting to the first two comments which lamented that Ravi had not "taken the deal." Of course I agree with you that he probably will not serve 10 years in prison.

Fair enough, but even if he serves only a year for this, he still should've taken the deal. 600 hours of community service isn't nothing, but it's a lot easier than actually going to prison. The physical evidence was overwhelming against him.

If only there could have been a live stream as he discussed his choices with the lawyer. People wonder why the lawyer resorted to the gay panic defense, well, it's because he was left to grasp at straws.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:35 PM on March 16, 2012


Do we even care anymore about rehabilitation

Did we ever? It's good lip service, but it seems ridiculous in practice.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:36 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Deportation is too good for him.

Indeed, make him stay in the U.S.!
posted by Navelgazer at 1:36 PM on March 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


That's absurd. How about we lock up Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher too...

Only if we put them in the same cell.
posted by Seiten Taisei at 1:37 PM on March 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


It just seems like such a lenient deal that many people would take it rather than risk a lengthy prison sentence.

It had to be the risk of deportation, I would think. If that's all you care about, and the deal doesn't preclude it, that's a big risk in pleading guilty.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:37 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's absurd. How about we lock up Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher too...

BobbyVan, I'm conflicted about your two sentences...
posted by IAmBroom at 1:37 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It had to be the risk of deportation, I would think.
That's what I assume, too, but part of the deal was that the prosecutors said they'd try to help him avoid deportation, so he's actually worse off on that score now.
posted by craichead at 1:39 PM on March 16, 2012


But seriously, I can both think that the verdict is appropriate and think it's insane that he didn't take the extremely generous deal that was offered. I'd like to think it was either Ravi's arrogance or pressure from his family, because I can picture a certain breed of lawyer wanting to be the one taking this to trial, a high profile case dealing with a new law and an unsympathetic client who, if he loses, won't tarnish your own reputation? Yeah, there are lawyers who might put their thumbs on the scales of going to trial.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:40 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's absurd. How about we lock up Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher too...


The Limbaugh-Maher Equivalence Game
posted by zombieflanders at 1:44 PM on March 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Or maybe having a criminal record would completely derail his future career plans, making it worthwhile for him to at least try for an acquittal. That's the only thing that really makes sense to me.
posted by orrnyereg at 1:46 PM on March 16, 2012


Fair enough, but even if he serves only a year for this, he still should've taken the deal. 600 hours of community service isn't nothing, but it's a lot easier than actually going to prison. The physical evidence was overwhelming against him.

You're correct, of course, but again it’s odd that we’re only critiquing Ravi’s legal strategy. What about the State of New Jersey? They’re prosecuting a case that they never would have taken absent Clementi’s suicide and the national media outcry fueled by both Ravi and Clementi’s use of social media.

How many times does someone's privacy get invaded on college campuses, every day? How many times is someone bullied or harassed because they're gay, every day? This was an extremely, extraordinarily selective prosecution, which was undertaken for obviously political reasons.

Ravi is undeniably an asshole, who deserves to be shamed, mocked and scorned for his actions. That he may be going to jail is not something to celebrate.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:47 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


The indictment (PDF): two counts of invasion of privacy, two counts of attempted invasion of privacy, four counts of bias intimidation (based on each of the prior counts), three counts of evidence tampering (deleting from twitter and text messages), three counts of hindering prosecution, and one count of witness tampering.

Most of the charges are 3rd degree (3-5 years prison) and 4th degree (up to 18 months). One bias intimidation is 2nd degree, which is where the up to 10 years prison comes from.

Interestingly, the bias intimidation is really just a strengthening charge of sorts: "Otherwise, bias intimidation is a crime one degree higher than the most serious underlying crime referred to in subsection"
posted by smackfu at 1:48 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


First, the invasion of privacy was motivated by Ravi's homophobia. Bias is proved in the trail of instant messages and emails Ravi exchanged with others.

Second, 10 years is not long enough for Ravi. Ravi's actions indirectly caused a gifted young man to feel badly enough to take his own life. Ravi is a bigot whose actions unexpectedly led to a death. I would be pleased if Ravi could get 25 years for his asshole move.

The reality is that even if NJ gave him 10 years, Ravi would emerge as a young man in his early 30s with his whole life ahead of him.

FUCK THAT.
posted by mistersquid at 1:51 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]




What if Clementi never killed himself and simply reported Ravi's recording to the school? Explusion? Sure. Criminal prosecution? I dont think so. Jail term? Of course not.

I'm not sure the law recognizes "if your victim kills themselves then you deserve more severe punishment."

What if Clementi was a heterosexual and had brought over a girl, everything else the same. Media hoopla? Doubtful. The law DOES recognize hate crimes against minority groups of course, but should we scapegoat one young college douche over politics?

It really all hinges on the sentencing anyway; the conviction was a given.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 1:53 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sticherbeast: "People wonder why the lawyer resorted to the gay panic defense, well, it's because he was left to grasp at straws."

Or a super secret plan to undermine the "gay panic" defense.

one can hope and dream
posted by idiopath at 1:54 PM on March 16, 2012


"The bias charge was a possible question, but there was absolutely no question on the invasion of privacy charge, right?"

Rutgers Defendant Wrote of Keeping ‘Gays Away’.

In my book, that's bias.
posted by ericb at 1:56 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


What if Clementi never killed himself and simply reported Ravi's recording to the school? Explusion? Sure. Criminal prosecution? I dont think so. Jail term? Of course not.

Why not? I mean, yes, I agree that this wouldn't happen, but I think it absolutely should. (I honestly don't think Ravi would even be expelled, unfortunately). The argument seems to be that, since not every perpetrator is prosecuted, no perpetrator should be prosecuted.

What if Clementi was a heterosexual and had brought over a girl, everything else the same.

I despise these sort of hypotheticals. You can't change out the players and then say 'everything the same.' The world doesn't work that way.
posted by muddgirl at 1:56 PM on March 16, 2012 [23 favorites]


"What if Clementi was hetero?"

What if we were civilized enough as a species such that a person wouldn't be made to think that the eternal void was preferable to being outed?
posted by Slackermagee at 1:56 PM on March 16, 2012 [27 favorites]


What if Clementi was a heterosexual and had brought over a girl, everything else the same.
In what world does a heterosexual suicide for having a makeout session made public? The unlikelihood of just such a world is why the remorseless Ravi deserves to spend the best part of his life in jail.
posted by mistersquid at 1:56 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


What if Clementi was a heterosexual and had brought over a girl, everything else the same.

Well, it wouldn't be a bias crime.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:57 PM on March 16, 2012


From ericb's linked MSNBC article:
“There’s no winner here,” said Bill Dobbs, a longtime gay activist and civil libertarian. “There’s a young gay man dead and another one whose life is wrecked to a considerable degree. This case had an overzealous prosecutor … who was pushed by gay organizations that have lost sight of justice.

“The suicide cast a long shadow into that court room and really got the book thrown at Dharun Ravi,” Dobbs added, noting he didn’t think there would have been a criminal case without Clementi’s death. “This is well beyond looking for justice and into the realm of vengeance considering the number of charges against Ravi and the seriousness of them. As hate crimes prosecution mount, the flaws of such laws become apparent.”

...

Meanwhile, Marc Poirer, an openly gay professor of law and sexuality at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey, said he was concerned about the verdict, saying it was not a typical bias crime.

“I think that the law didn’t fit very well,” he said, calling Ravi’s actions those of a “dumb 18-year-old” that “went wrong.”

“I think if Clementi had not committed suicide, none of this would have surfaced in this way,” he added. “I don’t want to say it’s a miscarriage of justice. I would say it’s a misapplication of principles that would be better served -- especially if we’re just figuring out how to do this -- with a clearer case.”
posted by BobbyVan at 1:58 PM on March 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


In what world does a heterosexual suicide for having a makeout session made public?

Not to derail this discussion, but I imagine it's not totally unheard of in extremely religiously conservative countries for this to happen to teenage girls.
posted by elizardbits at 1:58 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Deportation is too good for him.

Indeed, make him stay in the U.S.!
in prison as opposed to being scot free in India.


The conviction does directly affect his legal status as a permanent resident in the US.
posted by infini at 1:59 PM on March 16, 2012


BobbyVan, I see your argument there, and somewhat agree with it, but it's one of those aspects of our justice system which I find unlikely to change. I'm reminded of this case. Why should the girl in that case be given any more than the speeding ticket that would have normally resulted from her actions? And what good does it serve to punish her further?
posted by Navelgazer at 2:00 PM on March 16, 2012


You're correct, of course, but again it’s odd that we’re only critiquing Ravi’s legal strategy. What about the State of New Jersey? They’re prosecuting a case that they never would have taken absent Clementi’s suicide and the national media outcry fueled by both Ravi and Clementi’s use of social media.

Had Clementi not committed suicide, of course there probably never would have been a trial. That's life. If you drive drunk and don't get pulled over, then you get away with driving drunk. If you drive drunk and you take out a family of six, then you will probably go to jail for a very long time. Them's the breaks.

You know what would have been an even better way for Ravi to have avoided a trial? To not have invaded Clementi's privacy in the first place, and to not have tampered with evidence and witnesses after the fact. And after he was caught for everything, he could have taken a generous plea deal and mitigated the damage done to himself, but he insisted on a trial, because he was apparently delusional about his own case.

There were a number of times where he could have turned around, but he chose not to. Now look where he is. This is what personal responsibility looks like. There was no point where the State of New Jersey went into Ravi's dorm and told him to do any of the things he did. Ravi alone is responsible for what happened here.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:02 PM on March 16, 2012 [54 favorites]


Hm. I realize pretty upset here and I'm going to dial it back now.*

* On reflecting on the why of my anger (beyond the tragedy of Clementi's suicide), I realized the fact that I'm twice a survivor of family members who committed suicide is affecting my empathy for the convicted. I'd probably have been dismissed from the jury pool, so I'll try not to act out in writing for the remainder of what is bound to be a very LONG thread.
posted by mistersquid at 2:04 PM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I strongly hope he is deported, would expect and support deportation if any American did this in India.
posted by ambient2 at 2:06 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Had Clementi not committed suicide, of course there probably never would have been a trial. That's life. If you drive drunk and don't get pulled over, then you get away with driving drunk. If you drive drunk and you take out a family of six, then you will probably go to jail for a very long time. Them's the breaks.

This is really the key point. Clementi's suicide was not foreseeable. Driving drunk and causing injury is. That's why only in the latter case should it affect criminal liability.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 2:06 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Bias crime statutes are bad news, even if they do occasionally yield sympathetic verdicts.
posted by likeatoaster at 2:07 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sticherbeast - there's a big, monumental legal difference between driving drunk and killing somebody directly, and humiliating someone who then goes on to kill himself.

None of us knows exactly what was going on in Clementi's life, or in his mind for that matter, when he decided to jump off that bridge.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:07 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


mistersquid: Second, 10 years is not long enough for Ravi. Ravi's actions indirectly caused a gifted young man to feel badly enough to take his own life. Ravi is a bigot whose actions unexpectedly led to a death. I would be pleased if Ravi could get 25 years for his asshole move.
25 years?! Dammit man, that's still too lenient! What are you, some namby-pamby soft-on-crime liberal wuss? How about forty- no, make that FIFTY years! Fuck, I fucking hate this Ravi guy, how about ONE THOUSAND BAJILLION YEARS because fuck you fucking fuck Ravi! Sentence to ALL THE YEARS!


Ahem. That was, after all, my point. In the general, those words cost you nothing... have you ever spent 10 years in prison? What happens in years 11-25 that is so markedly different? Nothing, you just like tapping into the hate and ranting. If he was up for a maximum of 5 years, you'd rant that he shoudl get at least 10. If he was up for the 25 you mentioned, you'd just rant he should be up for 50 and never see the light of day until he was a senior citizen. Because fuck him, amirite?

And in the specific case... no. You're wrong. Ravi may be a bigot, and a douchebag, but his actions did not cause a "gifted young man" to take his life. Just because it's tragic that Clementi killed himself, that doesn't mean Ravi or anyone else is to blame. At some point, in some way, people need to start understanding that others can't always make you feel a certain way, or make you act a certain way. Clementi had many other choices and options instead of killing himself- you can't pin that on Ravi, and thus any reactions that stem from the desire to "punish" someone for Clementi's suicide are irrational and very bad justice.
posted by hincandenza at 2:07 PM on March 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


How did they get 15 charges out of this incident?

Detailed list of all the counts and the verdicts on each.
posted by ericb at 2:08 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just to be clear, hincandenza. Have you ever been made to feel like offing yourself? Have you ever tried?

That is the source of my rage. Not a justification, just an explanation.
posted by mistersquid at 2:10 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


This case has made me terribly, terribly sad. And seriously angry.

But I'm very pleased about one thing: that finally, FINALLY some thoroughly callow, thoroughly callous asshole finally had his head handed to him on a platter in a public domain. In a general way, this kind of crap has been going on forever with no consequences for the perpetrators of all the harm done. It used to be, and probably still involves, guys posting crap about girls on locker room walls or spreading trash talk among their little friends. Then along came the internet and this sort of nonsense could be uploaded to a wider audience -- and achieve immortality since stuff on the web in theory never dies. Whether the target of the bullying is female or male, "straight" or "gay", is irrelevant: the harm done to peoples' psyches, reputations and general well-being is often irreparable.

So I'm glad the little bastard made a bad bet and lost. I am completely lacking in empathy.

OK, I'll shut up now.
posted by cool breeze at 2:10 PM on March 16, 2012 [20 favorites]


And after he was caught for everything, he could have taken a generous plea deal and mitigated the damage done to himself, but he insisted on a trial, because he was apparently delusional about his own case.

Unless it was on the advice of an immigration lawyer - taking the plea deal would mean accepting guilt (or being convicted of the crime? I am not a lawyer but i've been through something like with another idiot called ravi and his dui and green card issues) and that may have implications for his permanent residency.

Crimes involving moral turpitude where the penalty exceeds one year or more16 can make an alien deportable or inadmissible. Moral turpitude, under immigration law, has been defined by case law and is extremely broad. These crimes include all frauds, thefts, burglaries, robberies, murder, manslaughter, income tax evasion, drunk driving, assaults with weapons, domestic violence, conspiracy related crimes, and drug trafficking.17

Moral turpitude crimes that provide for a penalty of less than one year, such as drunk driving, retail fraud, or simple assaults, generally will not create problems for aliens if there is a single criminal conviction. The sole exception to this rule includes crimes for domestic violence.18

posted by infini at 2:10 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is really the key point. Clementi's suicide was not foreseeable. Driving drunk and causing injury is. That's why only in the latter case should it affect criminal liability.

Sticherbeast - there's a big, monumental legal difference between driving drunk and killing somebody directly, and humiliating someone who then goes on to kill himself.


Ravi was not charged with anything related to the suicide. The suicide may have led the state to pursue charges against Ravi, but he was only charged with those crimes he actually did commit. He was charged with invasion of privacy, evidence tampering, witness tampering, etc., and there is ample evidence that he actually committed these crimes. He could have avoided punishment entirely by not invading his roommate's privacy, by not tampering with evidence, by not tampering with witnesses, and so forth.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:11 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


norabarnacl3 : Harm was definitely a foreseeable consequence of Ravi's invading his roommates privacy and publicizing his sexual orientation, it may have even been the intention. Seems like this is where you can apply the eggshell skull rule.
posted by Grimgrin at 2:11 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


COUNT 9
4th Degree Tampering with Physical Evidence: GUILTY
(Deleted tweets relevant to police investigation)
COUNT 10
4th Degree Tampering with Physical Evidence: GUILTY
(Wrote and posted a false tweet)
COUNT 11
3rd Degree Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution: GUILTY
(Destroyed evidence relevant to investigation)
COUNT 12
3rd Degree Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution: GUILTY
(Prevented a witness from providing testimony)
COUNT 13
3rd Degree Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution: GUILTY
(Lied to police)
COUNT 14
3rd Degree Witness Tampering: GUILTY
(Tried to influence what Molly Wei told police)
COUNT 15
4th Degree Tampering with Physical Evidence: GUILTY
(Deleted text messages sent to and received from witnesses)


This probably explains at least some of why the prosecution was so enthusiastic.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:12 PM on March 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


you know I shoulda pulled 18 instead of leaving myself
posted by infini at 2:12 PM on March 16, 2012


Can't we just deport him and save taxpayers' money?
posted by Renoroc at 2:13 PM on March 16, 2012


What Ravi did was horrible, but he was more dumbfuck than bully, and it's just all so sad.

I haven't followed the case very closely. What details or aspects of the case support the "Ravi was more a dumbfuck than bully" view?
posted by jayder at 2:14 PM on March 16, 2012


How did they get 15 charges out of this incident?

Detailed list of all the counts and the verdicts on each.


Two victims, various degrees of offenses, multiple incidents of tampering with physical evidence, multiple incidents of "hindering apprehension or prosecution," witness tampering with Molly Wei. 15 isn't that much, considering all his post-crime shenanigans to cover it up.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:14 PM on March 16, 2012


Unless it was on the advice of an immigration lawyer - taking the plea deal would mean accepting guilt (or being convicted of the crime? I am not a lawyer but i've been through something like with another idiot called ravi and his dui and green card issues) and that may have implications for his permanent residency.

In the rejected deal, the state was going to actively help Ravi avoid deportation. With the new verdict, he receives no such assistance.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:14 PM on March 16, 2012


What details or aspects of the case support the "Ravi was more a dumbfuck than bully" view?

See the New Yorker article linked above. It gives the whole backstory, though it's not clear that he is not a bully.

To me, he seems like a bully wanna-be, i.e. he didn't have the social status or confidence to be a leader or a bully, but he sure as hell wanted to.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:15 PM on March 16, 2012


I'm happy with the verdicts. I hope the judge throws the book at Ravi and that scumbag does decades of hard time before he gets deported. There will hopefully be plenty of security cameras watching over him in prison, giving him something to think about while he rots.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:16 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Turning down the plea was mind-boggling stupid, or terrific malpractice from his lawyers. The obstruction evidence against him was overwhelming and social conservatives are scant enough in New Jersey that a gay panic defense was sure to fail in the jury room: at most one or two would slip by voir dire onto the jury room, and they wouldn't be made of stern enough stuff to hang the jury.
posted by MattD at 2:17 PM on March 16, 2012


Seems like this is where you can apply the eggshell skull rule.

Just to be clear, that's a Torts doctrine, not a Criminal doctrine (there are a few similar aspects of U.S. Criminal Law, such as felony murder statutes, but in general one shouldn't get them confused.)

That said, do we know if Clementi's family is pursuing a wrongful death suit or anything of the kind?
posted by Navelgazer at 2:19 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually, I'm surprised the prosecution offered that particular plea deal. They would have been harshly criticized for letting him off with no prison time, and the 15 for 15 guilty charges suggest their case was quite strong. Can anyone understand their logic?
posted by smackfu at 2:20 PM on March 16, 2012


The immigration consequence of a criminal conviction of an alien often far outweighs the criminal punishment imposed. By carefully evaluating the immigration consequences, criminal practitioners can often mold a resolution that will allow an alien to avoid deportation/removal or to be eligible for a waiver or readmission into the U.S. As noted above, judges and prosecutors may work with criminal attorneys to create circumstances that may allow aliens to remain in the U.S.
posted by infini at 2:21 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I say this as a gay man: this is a fucking disgusting verdict. Grossly disproportionate, slyly racist (as B E Ellis said) and more of a cause for outrage than what Ravi did to Clementi. It enrages me how the American left can celebrate the impending 10+ year physical and psychological torture of this guy by your horrifically broken justice system. He is not your sacrificial lamb for expiating homophobia.
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:28 PM on March 16, 2012 [26 favorites]


Ravi was not charged with anything related to the suicide. The suicide may have led the state to pursue charges against Ravi, but he was only charged with those crimes he actually did commit. He was charged with invasion of privacy, evidence tampering, witness tampering, etc., and there is ample evidence that he actually committed these crimes. He could have avoided punishment entirely by not invading his roommate's privacy, by not tampering with evidence, by not tampering with witnesses, and so forth.
That’s true, but it’s a pretty tendentious and narrow recounting of the facts. It’s the selective and politically-charged nature of Ravi’s prosecution that has me concerned. This prosecution wasn’t about “invasion of privacy, evidence tampering, witness tampering, etc” per se; it was about the state of New Jersey making a statement about bullying gay people. There are much better, more constitutional ways of making that statement than locking up Dharun Ravi.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:31 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, I'm surprised the prosecution offered that particular plea deal. They would have been harshly criticized for letting him off with no prison time, and the 15 for 15 guilty charges suggest their case was quite strong. Can anyone understand their logic?

Maybe they, like some in this thread, felt he didn't deserve prison time. Maybe Clementi's family didn't feel he deserved prison time. Maximum punishment is not always a prosecutor's goal.
posted by yath at 2:32 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


It’s the selective and politically-charged nature of Ravi’s prosecution that has me concerned. This prosecution wasn’t about “invasion of privacy, evidence tampering, witness tampering, etc” per se; it was about the state of New Jersey making a statement about bullying gay people. There are much better, more constitutional ways of making that statement than locking up Dharun Ravi.

Do you dispute that he actually committed the crimes he was convicted of? If not, then why should he dodge responsibility for those crimes?

It's not as if they're sending him to jail for jaywalking: he really did commit invasion of privacy, he really did tamper with evidence and witnesses, and so forth. It's also not as if they hadn't offered him a generous "out," in the form of a plea deal.

It enrages me how the American left can celebrate the impending 10+ year physical and psychological torture of this guy by your horrifically broken justice system.

If he winds up serving ten years for this, then I will literally eat a hat.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:38 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


They could have probably used him as an example in the 'community service' part of the please to make him explain what he did, and why it was wrong to do so. A lot of the community service portion of crimes against others - drunk driving, theft linked with drug abuse, similar crimes - is done this way in New Jersey (and probably other places, but I grew up in NJ and thus is where I know).

I don't think I completely agree with this verdict, because the law itself on the bias portion of the verdict is not particularly well-designed. The post-event things he did (evidence and witness tampering) there is sufficient evidence he was guilty of; the initial charges bear the same sufficient evidence. It's the bias part that strikes me as problematic.

I'm not a lawyer, and legal wrangling is its own special hell language, but it just seems entirely too reactionary to be properly useful and more like something used as a cudgel instead of a scalpel to deal with something with nuance.
posted by mephron at 2:44 PM on March 16, 2012


I thought this line from the New Yorker article was really weird:

Clementi told Yang that Ravi’s parents had seemed “sooo Indian first gen americanish,” adding that they “defs owna dunkin”—a Dunkin’ Donuts.

He went on to say that he didn't call Ravi by name because he didn't know how to pronounce Dharun. I wonder if Ravi sensed any racism from him.
posted by desjardins at 2:45 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


It’s the selective and politically-charged nature of Ravi’s prosecution that has me concerned.

I would bet money that if he hadn't lied to cops and prosecutors and tampered with witnesses, he would've gotten a slap on the wrist for the invasion of privacy charge.

Or do you think he should have not be charged with hindering prosecution and witness tampering?
posted by rtha at 2:50 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder if Ravi sensed any racism from him.
Why would it matter?
posted by craichead at 2:51 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


slyly racist (as B E Ellis said)

You know, as a committed commie I hate sending people to jail, although Ravi is a douchebag supremo.

But racist? Where is that coming from, other than BEE's clever clever clever brain?
posted by angrycat at 2:53 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This seems like a case where people who don't understand prosecutorial discretion are up in arms.

Prosecutors sometimes don't prosecute crimes that they could prosecute. But it's not a defense to say "but the DA hardly ever prosecutes this offense!"

Prosecutorial discretion allows for prosecutors to consider things like the suicide, in deciding to prosecute the bias crime. It's not "fucking disgusting" to decide to prosecute the bias crime because the victim committed suicide. That's classic prosecutorial discretion.

Similarly, I bet it's rare for federal prosecutors to pursue someone for breaking into a yahoo email account, but that's what they did with the college student who hacked Sarah Palin's account.

Prosecution is a job with limited resources, and it is entirely appropriate for prosecutors to choose to pursue high-profile cases largely because of consequences that cannot actually be linked, by a direct causal chain, to the crime. Prosecutors can consider the public's moral outrage, general community sentiment, and the desire to send a message to anyone who might be tempted to commit a similar crime, in deciding to prosecute someone. That appears to be what happened in this case, and it seems totally appropriate.
posted by jayder at 2:53 PM on March 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


I'm going to start by saying one can argue all day about the causation of Clementi's suicide, but people seem to be forgetting that the entire modus operandi of hate-based bullying and harassment relies on ambiguous and random actions. That is how people are hurt and how the bullies get away with what they've done. That is why even though the specific Clementis cannot be predicted, the overall correlation exists and thus general phenomenon of hate-related suicide is perfectly inevitable.

Ravi is not faultless. That said, he is a scapegoat for all the wrongs in society that led to this. That's just how our dichotomous, adversarial, and punitive justice system (non)functions. His incarceration is a crude but one effective way of guaranteeing progress, of preventing future harm against gays. So, should my attitude have been, a) support the jury's decision, which goes a long way towards making me feel safer as a gay person, or b) they should let him go scot-free, and we will somehow find other ways to safety and dignity for gay people? This is really about progress, and how we want to achieve it.

The real tragedy and problem is that our system of justice is simply not equipped to send the proper social messages. I wish there were a more enlightened way of dealing with this. But most of the world is uneducated and unenlightened.
posted by polymodus at 2:54 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


It enrages me how the American left can celebrate the impending 10+ year physical and psychological torture of this guy by your horrifically broken justice system.

1.) he will not go to jail for 10+ years.
2.) Metafilter is not the American Left (and most people here are not celebrating the verdict).
posted by longdaysjourney at 2:55 PM on March 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


I am on "the left" (though I am not American), but I am not celebrating the verdict.

Well, let me be more accurate. I am not celebrating the potential for 10 years jail time, which seems outrageous in comparison to the nature of the wrong at issue here, which I take primarily as an invasion of privacy aggravated by some kind of hate crime (though I suppose the witness tampering is a factor, and will play into the sentencing as well).

It's a tragedy that the wrong set of a chain of actions that caused a suicide, but the death is not the wrong itself, and attempts to punish Ravi for that I think amount only to vengeance, not justice. Destroying Ravi's life will not bring Tyler back, and I tend to think that Ravi could do a lot more good if ordered to tour college campuses talking about how his closed-mindedness and thoughtlessness resulted in the death of a fellow college classmate rather than sitting in a jail cell for a decade.
posted by modernnomad at 3:09 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


That said, do we know if Clementi's family is pursuing a wrongful death suit or anything of the kind?

Not so sure.

March and October 2011:
Tyler Clementi's parents want roommate prosecuted, not severely punished.

Clementi's parents: Penalty need not be harsh.

Tyler Clementi's family: Ex-roommate does not deserve 'harsh' penalty in Rutgers webcam suicide case.
posted by ericb at 3:12 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm trying to sort out my feelings about this.

I work with college students in a student services role. I hear a lot of roommate conflict stories, some of which are pretty bad. But I have never, ever heard of someone using a web-cam to watch or record a roommate having sex, much less posting about it on twitter or inviting other people to watch. This may be the worst roommate bullying story I've ever heard, even if you don't think that Clementi's sexual orientation was an issue at all. If a student came in and told me that his or her roommate had done this, I would be required by our mandated reporting rules to contact the sexual misconduct coordinator, which would trigger a full investigation. It wouldn't matter whether the sex was gay, straight or solo. I really don't think this is a run-of-the-mill thing, the way some people seem to believe. It's really bad, and the average 18-year-old would know that it was likely to cause harm.

Having said that, the possible consequences here seem draconian. I think the plea deal was pretty appropriate, and I don't know that I think Ravi should go to prison. And as a general rule, I hate that people get deported based, essentially, on whether their parents decided to apply for citizenship for the or not. Ravi shouldn't get any additional punishment because he was born in India.
posted by craichead at 3:14 PM on March 16, 2012 [22 favorites]


I think the relevance of Clementi's parents' statements and wishes are highly contingent upon the quality of his relationship with them.
posted by polymodus at 3:14 PM on March 16, 2012


I wish people would stop using the word "scapegoat," which implies that Ravi is taking the blame for crimes committed by other people. He did those things. Those things carry these sentences. Incidentally, it's yet to be determined what actual sentence he'll receive.

Sure, he's become a sort of whipping boy for the national bully-panic, inasmuch as the attention he's received. But he has not been blamed or punished for anything he didn't do. And in fact, because this happened, similar crimes are likely to be taken more seriously in the future, maybe before someone gets seriously hurt or killed. Isn't that a good thing?
posted by hermitosis at 3:14 PM on March 16, 2012 [24 favorites]


Ravi had plenty of opportunities to make this better for himself, and instead he dug in his heels, obstructed the investigation and blew off a generous plea, to the extent that it has been kind of bewildering to watch. And even so, I still find it very unlikely that he will actually get close to 10 years (and of course he'll be appealing the verdict). Based on this and on what I've read, I don't have much sympathy for him and I think the jury's findings (especially broken down) were, I think, totally reasonable.

Calling for his deportation does make me uncomfortable, though. Ravi was born in India, but he moved when he was still a toddler and spent the rest of his life growing up in New Jersey. Obviously he isn't legally American, but (as craichead pointed out) he grew up here, and if this had happened a year or so later there's a good chance he'd have been a naturalized citizen at the time. To delight in punishing him further based on a technicality of his immigration status seems arbitrary and unnecessary to me.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:25 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Though I stand by what I said earlier based on the New Yorker article and all of the other many details I know about the case (that Ravi was more dumbfuck than bully -- at least in his treatment of Clementi -- he woudln't have ever had the balls to actually bully him to his face, and even though bullying-by-proxy is nasty, the whole situation is much more complex than "Ravi's actions forced the suicide"), I do want to make clear that I still think he deserves the verdict he was given.

He was given the opportunity to take a deal after it was made clear what he was being charged with (unlike tons of people online and some in this thread, he was not charged for the suicide and it was clear to him that he (a) did everyone of the things he was found guilty of and (b) THEY HAD PROOF OF ALL OF THOSE THINGS. He was given the opportunity to apologize and to admit guilt, which would have gotten him tremendous leniency. He did not take it.

He acted like a wannabe tough guy and attempted to use his "gross" gay roommate's sex life to score popularity points during the ramp up and first month of his first year of college. Horrible -- the real gross thing -- but not something that deserves 10 years in prison. But his actions had consequences, unforeseen, yes, but they happened.. And he was made aware of what those consequences were. He refused to take ANY responsibility when given the opportunity to do so . He deserves the full sentence.

That doesn't make it any less tragic -- stupidity can be tragic too.

(Derail: If there's any 'sly racism' having to do with this story, it seems to me it's the idea that an upper middle class kid being deported to India is somehow worse than a prison sentence.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:27 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Derail: If there's any 'sly racism' having to do with this story, it seems to me it's the idea that an upper middle class kid being deported to India is somehow worse than a prison sentence.)

I doubt he really feels like he's from there, if he's a permanent resident of the US. My parents are from India and though I personally am a full American born citizen, I could understand how disorienting and alienating being deported could be. India is a lovely place but forcing someone to go back there after growing up in the US doesn't seem at all right to me.
posted by sweetkid at 3:33 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I still think he deserves the verdict he was given.

Exactly, and I am surprised to see so many people brushing past that in their haste to argue over the sentence, which is the one bit of information that we DON'T actually have.

There so many things Ravi could have done to avoid ending up in this situation. Offhand:

A) Not pulled the stunt(s) in the first place
B) Come clean about what he did instead of trying to cover it up
C) Taken the plea deal he was offered

I am not celebrating his impending incarceration or deportation, but I can't muster much pity for someone who has basically proven every step of the way that he has no good judgment whatsoever. It's unfortunate, but that's a person who needs to learn things the hard way.
posted by hermitosis at 3:35 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Filming your roommate having sex is not a typical boneheaded college prank. Had it been a heterosexual roommate with a woman, people would be more outraged, sadly. To me, this is a level of cruelty that is far beyond the norm even amongst 18-year-old dudebros.

Casual homophobia is still a huge part of teenage male culture that's probably not going away anytime soon and garners a lot of sympathy for Ravi from a lot of guys who have said "dude, that's so gay" at one point. But this wasn’t on that level of casual homophobia. This was vicious.

And yes, I do think that even if Clementi hadn't committed suicide, punishment would and should have still been severe. I'm not fond of the tendency for college crimes to be swept under the rug, but in this case I have no doubt there would have been outrage.

Clementi complained to his resident assistant and two other officials that Ravi had videostreamed him kissing another man using a webcam. He wrote in detail on the Just Us Boys message board and Yahoo! message board about complaints he filed through university channels about his roommate. His posts indicated that he did not want to share a room with Ravi. Clementi wrote that he had asked the resident assistant for a new room after having learned about the first incident and then discovering that Ravi invited his Twitter followers to watch a second sexual encounter. " Clementi wrote to a friend online that he was not really bothered by what Ravi had seen in the first, brief viewing - primarily due to its extreme brevity and accidental nature - but found Ravi's intent to view the second rendezvous as "wildly inappropriate".
posted by quincunx at 3:36 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


What Ravi did was horrible, but he was more dumbfuck than bully

I dunno, I find this reasoning kind of specious - who are we to judge whether someone is "more dumbfuck than bully"? Isn't that what bullies and their defenders always say? Why, as a society, are we so prepared to excuse harrassment when we feel the bullies 'didn't know the damage they were causing' or some such? Why shouldn't they know? How could they not know; we live in a society where we see and are confronted with the results of harrassment and bullying every day.

I would submit that Ravi's subsequent actions show very clearly that these were not the actions of someone who "didn't know what they were doing", or was just a dumbfuck; he did everything he possibly could to obfuscate his actions, lie about what he knew, and encourage others to lie for him. That is not dumbfuck territory.

I dunno, I find it weird. Who cares if he was a dumbfuck, and not a true "bully" (do you get an ID card or what for that?); Ravi was not convicted for killing Clementi; he was convicted for doing what he did. His subsequent attempted cover-up and rejection of the plea bargain do not paint a picture of someone overcome with remorse.

How many times does someone's privacy get invaded on college campuses, every day? How many times is someone bullied or harassed because they're gay, every day? This was an extremely, extraordinarily selective prosecution, which was undertaken for obviously political reasons.

I find that reasoning pretty fucked up, Bobbyvan, and I'm suprised to see someone so right wing and concerned with liberties taking invasion of privacy so casually. I dunno about you, but I have moved in circles where people went out of their way to justify bullying, sexual harrassment and assault and more, because it's "not a big deal", "everyone gets it", "there's no permanent harm" etc. I think it's totally fucked up. It doesn't matter if every single person gets bullied and harrassed, it's still fucked and illegal and damaging. The problem with your little scenario above is not that someone got prosecuted for it - it's that thousands of people don't.
posted by smoke at 3:41 PM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


If Ravi gets deported, would that be after jail time? In lieu of jail time? How does that work?
posted by lullaby at 3:41 PM on March 16, 2012


After jail time.
posted by desjardins at 3:53 PM on March 16, 2012


Whether Ravi was a dumbfuck or bully or both, he was definitely a coward. To the best of our knowledge he didn't say anything homophobic to Clementi's face.
posted by desjardins at 3:56 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Clementi's suicide was not foreseeable. Driving drunk and causing injury is. That's why only in the latter case should it affect criminal liability.

You think that the potentially strong reaction of a sensitive, introverted, homosexual teenager after being sexually humiliated in front of who knows how many people was not forseeable? You and Dharun both don't know much about adolescent psychology and suicide amongst homosexual teenagers. And that's on you.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:02 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


And he made homophobic remarks on his twitter page that Clementi saw, is I recall correctly from the New Yorker article.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:04 PM on March 16, 2012


This is really the key point. Clementi's suicide was not foreseeable. Driving drunk and causing injury is. That's why only in the latter case should it affect criminal liability.

I don't understand why the foreseeability of the suicide matters when we consider that he was only prosecuted for a bias crime, that is, invading Clementi's privacy by webcamming his romantic/sexual activities and snickering with his friends/Twitter followers over it.
posted by jayder at 4:11 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


jayder - I understand prosecutorial discretion, but the foreseeability of the suicide matters because Ravi likely wouldn't have been charged if the suicide had not happened.
posted by desjardins at 4:14 PM on March 16, 2012


I understand prosecutorial discretion, but the foreseeability of the suicide matters because Ravi likely wouldn't have been charged if the suicide had not happened.

As I see it, the major legal/procedural consequence of the suicide was that it led to an investigation. Once Ravi started obstructing that investigation, he might as well have been shouting "I'M GUILTY!" to the police and prosecutors. They had to charge him.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:18 PM on March 16, 2012


jayder - I understand prosecutorial discretion, but the foreseeability of the suicide matters because Ravi likely wouldn't have been charged if the suicide had not happened.
posted by desjardins at 4:14 PM on 3/16
[+] [!]


Yes, but are you saying there is something wrong with the prosecuting Ravi for this bias crime because of Clementi's suicide?
posted by jayder at 4:19 PM on March 16, 2012


No, and I agree with the verdict.
posted by desjardins at 4:21 PM on March 16, 2012


I wish people would stop using the word "scapegoat," which implies that Ravi is taking the blame for crimes committed by other people. He did those things. Those things carry these sentences. Incidentally, it's yet to be determined what actual sentence he'll receive.

Agree completely with this comment. I feel sick just revisiting this through the New Yorker article and the verdict comments. Maybe it shows my age, but I just don't feel that the possible sentences are that draconian.

You think that the potentially strong reaction of a sensitive, introverted, homosexual teenager after being sexually humiliated in front of who knows how many people was not forseeable? You and Dharun both don't know much about adolescent psychology and suicide amongst homosexual teenagers. And that's on you.

I have worked with so many teenagers who were bullied in similar ways, heterosexual and Gay and I know for a fact the trauma that that this causes. To misquote Joseph Welch "Have we no sense of decency?"
posted by Isadorady at 4:24 PM on March 16, 2012


Oh, okay.
posted by jayder at 4:24 PM on March 16, 2012


The subtle racism is the response to his vulnerability to deportation, ie the attitude that "taxpayers" (persons) should have "money saved" by deporting him (a non-person).
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:25 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if Tyler Clementi hadn't killed himself, Ravi is still guilty of some serious stuff, and each consequent action he took made him look even worse. Accidentally-on-purpose spying the first time, then announcing his findings to his whole Twitter feed, then quite purposely recording him again, and inviting his whole Twitter feed to watch, trying to remove/edit those posts after the police came to visit, then blatantly telling his friend/witness to lie for him about the spying being "unintentional" when there is a load of text-and-online evidence that it was.

He bragged and publicly invited others to have a "viewing party" of a nonconsenting person, knowing full well the second time, at least, that sexual activity was likely. If these are the actions of just a "dumbfuck" college student "making a mistake", then I am really disgusted at how much we are willing to excuse from supposedly adult individuals.
posted by nakedmolerats at 4:39 PM on March 16, 2012 [27 favorites]


The NY article says Ravi had to be prompted by his father to say hello to Clementi when they met.

Their RA was also a turban-wearing South Asian.

I don't condone Clementi's Dunkin Donuts crack, but it may well have been his reaction to Ravi's behavior.
posted by brujita at 4:45 PM on March 16, 2012


I think the witness tampering is what makes the sentence appropriate. If it was the bullying alone, I would think 6 months or a year - along with lots of community service - would be enough to teach a lesson.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:02 PM on March 16, 2012


In my deleted post I said I was most furious about Ravi's refusal to respect Clementi's right to privacy, which according to the NY article had been violated long before Clementi brought the man to his room. Ravi had his webcam pointed at Clementi from the beginning.
posted by brujita at 5:12 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the rejected deal, the state was going to actively help Ravi avoid deportation. With the new verdict, he receives no such assistance.

Would that actually be worth anything? Unless there's some paperwork trick where the feds aren't officially informed about his conviction, I can't really see what influence a state prosecutor is going to have over ICE. Especially if you're trying to influence them NOT to deport somebody during an election year.
posted by queen zixi at 5:20 PM on March 16, 2012


Maybe it shows my age, but I just don't feel that the possible sentences are that draconian.

On this point, despite what conservatives may try to have you believe, current American sentences are not particularly lenient by the country's historical standards, let alone global standards. I mean, think about the phrase "eye for an eye," which is often construed to be a harsh standard, but actually implies a proportionality between the crime and the punishment--you would be indifferent between being the victim (you lose the "for an eye") or being convicted of the crime (you lose the first "eye"). If you think about that as a starting point for justice, what amount of jail time would make you indifferent between that and being a victim of the crimes Ravi was convicted of (the bias intimidation charge, as I understand it, is by far the most serious count)? I have a real hard time believing most people would even say a year, let alone the wild "decades" and "25 years" thrown around above. I sure wouldn't, although maybe I'm more jail-averse than the average person (though I don't really think so).

That said, even if he gets 10 years, which I doubt, I don't think he would likely serve that. I'm no lawyer, nor from New Jersey, but from what I can tell from their sentencing chart (page 35), a 10 year sentence would have an earliest parole eligibility date somewhere between two and two and a half years. I still think that's excessive and that the prosecutor's original plea bargain offer more reasonably approximates justice, but it's important in these things to be honest.
posted by dsfan at 5:30 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is like watching a car crash in slow motion, but the cars are aging institutions, incapable of handling 21st century reality. The parents, the schools, the police, the gadgets, the laws, it's all a big fucking mess. The judge still has the opportunity to hit the brakes in sentencing, but even that will probably not be enough to not ruin another person's life, given the deportation. For the record: I think the expulsion, the public shaming, and having to live with your actions possibly causing your college roommate to kill themselves is punishment enough. All jailing this guy does is give him a (well-deserved) persecution complex.

It's cliche, but two wrongs don't make a right. As one of "the gays," I'm sad to report there are a lot of little Dharun Ravis out there that will consider your sexuality an invitation to tease, harass, and sexually or physically assault you. But looking at the big picture: these bullies are just playing the role they've been given in a society which systematically alienates us. Coming to terms with your alien, outsider status while coming of age is hard enough without being forced to share a room in a foreign environment with homophobe #2394082 for the privilege of attending the university you have to go to to have a snowball's hell in chance of future employment, and the one source of respite this poor kid has, the Internet, turns out to be yet another weapon in the hands of yet another douchebag, this one tech-savvy enough to profile him via handles, rob him of the one tiny window of privacy he thought he had, and effectively "out" him at school he just started and is now basically stuck at, while he's still coping with the stress of coming out to his family and closest friends... yeah, it's a fucking tragedy.

But it's all too convenient to join the media circus, lay the blame on the bully, and feel good about ourselves for justice done. Justice isn't even fucking close to done. And it's not the bully's fault, it's our fault. The only way we can get close to healing is to acknowledge the many, many failures, both individual and systemic, which ended with the death of Tyler Clementi.

And finally, I really hope Dharun is just a thoughtless asshole, and not a repressed homosexual. That would just be too much.
posted by mek at 5:31 PM on March 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


From what I understand about immigration law (which is admittedly secondhand but comes from sources who have worked on deportation cases), even something silly like pleading guilty to a misdemeanor can trigger a deportation proceeding, and the threat can hang over your head for years before the feds finally get around to actually going through with it. I would guess that's why he didn't take the deal. New Jersey can help fight the deportation but it's a federal immigration judge who gets the last word, and some immigration judges can be notoriously erratic and capricious. Of course, he's probably in real bad shape on this front now.

While I know Ravi is a real jackass and all, I frankly find it quite mind-boggling how little empathy some of you have for a 20-year-old kid who is about to get kicked out of the country where he has lived his entire life. That to me is outrageous, and totally disproportionate to the crime. I agree with what someone said upthread, that it is unjust to have some folks pay drastically more serious penalties for the same offense just because they happen not to be citizens, and that's what happens when you deport people like Ravi.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:35 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


The judge still has the opportunity to hit the brakes in sentencing, but even that will probably not be enough to not ruin another person's life, given the deportation.

I'm of the school of thought that when someone commits a serious felony, they ruin their own life. The sentencing judge doesn't.
posted by jayder at 5:46 PM on March 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


Nor does immigration when they deport the felon.
posted by jayder at 5:47 PM on March 16, 2012


I'm confused about what plea deal Ravi was actually offered. In this thread it is described as "probation, 600 hours of community service, and state help against deportation"

But in the New Yorker article it states "If Ravi accepted the plea offer, he would serve no more than five years." That means the plea could have included up to 5 years in jail, no? I could then more easily understand why Ravi didn't accept it.
posted by parrot_person at 6:38 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was physically assaulted, threatened, mocked, harassed, and messed with by roommates in every single year I was in the dorms (except the last year, where I was in a single.) There's a part of me which is sort of happy with this verdict, if only because it might actually be so stunning that it will make an emotional impact on stupid 18-year-olds who are otherwise inclined to make the lives of virtual strangers miserable just because they can.

But most of me is thinking "the worst people on earth are all teenagers, and we can't very well throw away 20% of the population, who are only part way through developing neurologically and have had terrible training and have been confined with mostly other terrible people for years, for being awful."

(I also think putting people in prison is more or less the very worst way of accomplishing anything positive, though. It's really handy for creating hardened criminals and permanent burdens on society, though, so there's that.)
posted by SMPA at 6:58 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


As a person who considers invasion of another person's privacy (whether they be straight, gay, bi, asexual, male, female, or transgender), a seriously hideous and disturbing crime – I am quite pleased with the verdict.
posted by OsoMeaty at 7:24 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


When shit gets real for the bully, it makes for swift and useless regrets
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:00 PM on March 16, 2012


My interaction with immigration law is fairly limited (before law school I worked for an immigration attorney whose practice was very narrowly focused) but it takes very little for a deportation hearing to come up, and for the judge to decide to deport you.

That said, I've got at least some more significant experience arguing before the Federal Parole Commission (which applies exclusively to D.C.) which is even more frightening in the discretion given to the examiners (who neither require nor possess any legal training) the evidentiary standards (there are none) and the harshness of the penalties handed down (basically, if you're charged with anything while on parole in DC, you go back to prison. If you are found guilty in DC Superior Court, you are deemed guilty by the Parole Commission, whether it was part of a plea bargain or anything else. If you are acquitted, the Parole Commission has a new examination with no standards, and only the Examiner's discretion.)

And most clients lose before the FPC, though I had the weird circumstance of - though I'm not a particularly good attorney - "winning" both cases I've argued before them to the fullest extent permitted by law.

The point of this being that, one, a well-argued case before this type of examiner, even with an adversarial chief witness, as was the case in one of my instances, can still go well for the client. The examiners aren't heartless monsters. Two, if the state's chief witness is on your side (as happened with my other case, where the cop involved came and said he thought it was probably a misunderstanding) the examiner will take that into account.

All this to say that while a NJ plea-bargain promising to help with the deportation hearing wouldn't guarantee any results, and would have no direct political sway over the Immigration Judge's decision, it would still mean a lot. The judge would have to face two sides both suggesting that Ravi shouldn't be deported to a country he's never consciously known, and basically personally decide, "nah, fuck that guy." There are some bad judges in this country, but in general, judges don't do that.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:13 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I sympathize with, but don't support, Dharun. I think he showed a remarkable lack of understanding, empathy and respect for Clementi as a person, and while you can never be sure about these things, it does seem likely that he wouldn't have committed suicide hadn't it been for this American Pie escapade. I also think 10 years, if Dharun gets it, sounds excessive, and that he and his family erred in not taking the plea bargain. To me, the relatively lenient deal there was the prosecution signaling that they'd like to dial back things a little; I think Dharun's family has made a massive mistake there, and will certainly be regretting their decision.

He went on to say that he didn't call Ravi by name because he didn't know how to pronounce Dharun. I wonder if Ravi sensed any racism from him.

I don't know if Dharun sensed racism there, but I know this:- it wouldn't have been the first time he got such shit. In fact, it'd be a frigging DAILY occurrence; if I had a penny for each time someone wanted me to 'simplify' my two syllable name, or made a Dunkin Donuts or a curry joke, I would have enough money to, I don't know, buy the entire chain and raze it to the ground or something.
posted by the cydonian at 10:18 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm of the school of thought that when someone commits a serious felony, they ruin their own life. The sentencing judge doesn't.

Two points: one, there is a reason we have sentencing judges, and not sentencing robots. We choose to give other human beings discretion to choose an appropriate sentence, a sentence which is not automatically communicated by the guilty verdict (but then again, mandatory minimums...). Two, morality and legality are not identical. I can believe that Dharun Ravi was correctly found guilty of the crimes he was charged with (I do) and simultaneously believe that it is likely that his prosecution is both immoral and socially destructive (I do), without any necessary contradiction.
posted by mek at 10:45 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


the cydonian: indeed. A lot of prosecutors are of the Nancy Grace type of high-profile self-promotion, but this prosecutor seemed to be fully aware that 1) Ravi was guilty of what he was actually charged with, which are fairly serious offenses on their own, and 2) that the circumstances surrounding those crimes were likely to result in things worse than the actions themselves warranted. A lot of prosecutors are genuinely good people wanting to serve justice properly. I couldn't do the job myself, but I have respect for those who do it well.

Ravi was a fool to not take the plea he was offered.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:47 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the article: "He rejected a plea deal in December that would have kept him out of prison and offered him assistance with immigration authorities."

Ravi was a fool to not take the plea he was offered.

This.
posted by Fizz at 6:10 AM on March 17, 2012


It's not an original notion but one that doesn't seem to be getting discussed too much: is this what the result would have been if Dharun Ravi had been a jus soli kid from an upper-middle-class neighborhood with a name like Braiden Whitehead? Or would it have been more of the "we don't have anything to do with the tragic results of their lifestyle choice that we pushed them to" handwaving from people more able to escape real culpability by means legal and social?

Ellis isn't completely insane. I get the feeling that had this not happened in a college town and involved a non-white person, it would have been some written off as some good natured shenanigans gone wrong.
posted by Appropriate Username at 6:42 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


it does seem likely that he wouldn't have committed suicide hadn't it been for this American Pie escapade

I would say we have insufficient evidence to decide that either way. Clementi's IM conversations about the incident with his friend don't suggest that he was particularly traumatized by the incident, but of course he could be putting on a brave face. That is always the awful thing about suicide for survivors--you never really know, even when there's a suicide note, what 'caused' it.

In this particular case we have a giant post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy that has driven everything that happened subsequently. In a world in which Clementi doesn't commit suicide, there's absolutely zero probability of Ravi facing a criminal charge. The worst consequences he would have faced would have been some kind of administrative discipline at school. Years of jail time and deportation do seem to me to be rather excessive punishments for a crime that--barring a tragic and unforeseeable event whose connection to the crime is unproven and unprovable--we would consider adequately handled by, at most, expulsion from college.
posted by yoink at 7:37 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I get the feeling that had this not happened in a college town and involved a non-white person, it would have been some written off as some good natured shenanigans gone wrong.

Actually I suspect that had the defendent been a whitebread dude, MeFi would be talking about him like a one-man Duke Lacrosse team, rather than suggesting that ten years is disproportionate. Among those who like to see kids sent to jail for bullying, being a suburbanite does not exactly enhance your rep.

The emails and IMs in the New Yorker article make the whole thing much more mysterious than it was before. Clementi seems annoyed but not at all shattered by Ravix, and what's more, he seems to be working through the proper channels to get Ravi punished. And yes, like Matthew Shepard, he becomes less of a poster boy the more you know---judging from all the messages, this looks to have been a battle between a self-important homophobe and a self-absorbed racist.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:48 AM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think part of the reason the racial angle doesn't seem to be getting discussed too much is that it's lazy and tiresome. Merely asking, "Is this what would have happened?" with a raised eyebrow doesn't really bring anything to the table to discuss, and that's all I've seen from any columnists or commenters who have touched upon it.
posted by cribcage at 7:55 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


What's the relevance of this?

It feels relevant to me that we're talking about college kids here, but that just might be because of my own position. (Of course I've never dealt with anything on this scale.)

There are cases where a basically nice, responsible kid has a lapse of judgement, because (s)he is 20 years old and hasn't yet developed the emotional and practical skills to deal with a situation. In such cases, as an authority figure, it is your responsibility to invoke campus disciplinary measures—which, if they work properly, help the student develop the aforementioned skills by providing appropriate consequences.

And then there are cases where the slimy miscreant whom you've had your eye on for a couple of semesters finally puts a toe over the line and gives you the evidence to go to the Dean of Students.

Years of jail time and deportation do seem to me to be rather excessive punishments for a crime that--barring a tragic and unforeseeable event whose connection to the crime is unproven and unprovable--we would consider adequately handled by, at most, expulsion from college.

School officials are mandatory reporters, and any crime on our campus that is sexual in nature gets turned over to the city police. In a case like this with clear-cut evidence, it's almost certain that there would be legal penalties—though possibly not as severe as jail time.
posted by BrashTech at 8:04 AM on March 17, 2012


MeFi would be talking about him like a one-man Duke Lacrosse team

This is relevant? Do the judgments of Metafilter members carry the same weight as legal judgments or the judgments of one's community or the media in general? No, those are the sort of judgments that tend to have actual consequences beyond the Blue. While MeFi may have gotten a modicum of outrage more out of him being more arbitrarily socially privileged than he is currently, I don't think that it would have been much noticed by anyone actually involved.

Merely asking, "Is this what would have happened?" with a raised eyebrow doesn't really bring anything to the table to discuss

All right, how about "It's pretty obvious given similar cases in the US that, had this been a white student of affluence, very little media attention would have been given to this small legal discrepancy in the young master's life."? Pointing out things that everyone should be well able to understand without explanation is suddenly lazy and tiresome? Or is it that one discriminatory action is okay so long as it punishes another discriminatory action?
posted by Appropriate Username at 8:31 AM on March 17, 2012


There has been sloppy reporting of the bias intimidation charges. New Jersey's bias intimidation statute covers situations in which the victim need only have a reasonable belief that the offense was committed because the victim's sexual orientation, etc., or that the victim was selected due to his having a certain sexual orientation, etc.

So this law substitutes victim belief for specific criminal intent with regard to the main element of the crime. I hope at least that portion gets struck down.
posted by palliser at 8:47 AM on March 17, 2012


All right, how about "It's pretty obvious given similar cases in the US that, had this been a white student of affluence, very little media attention would have been given to this small legal discrepancy in the young master's life."? Pointing out things that everyone should be well able to understand without explanation is suddenly lazy and tiresome? Or is it that one discriminatory action is okay so long as it punishes another discriminatory action?

I actually agree more with ThatFuzzyBastard on this one - the stereotypical "face" of bullying, especially homophobic bullying, is the jock-y white fratboy (such as the footballers on Glee). I think if Ravi had been white, he would also have been offered a pretty easy plea deal, and if he didn't take it, then all bets are off. Plenty of media attention has been given to other LGBT teen suicides - though most of those don't have one identifiable 'bullier' as here.

Once Ravi started messing with evidence and witnesses, he pretty much admitted his own perceived guilt. I think this also affected his eventual conviction - it'd be easier to say "he was just a dumb kid" if he didn't immediately try to cover it up.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:52 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


All right, how about "It's pretty obvious given similar cases in the US that, had this been a white student of affluence, very little media attention would have been given to this small legal discrepancy in the young master's life."?

What are these similar cases you're referring to, or can you not think of any? The combination of livestreaming with a subsequent suicide, plus evidence and witness tampering, made this case awfully singular.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:56 AM on March 17, 2012


School officials are mandatory reporters, and any crime on our campus that is sexual in nature gets turned over to the city police.

Nice theory, but the facts show otherwise. Clementi did, in fact, report the incident. There was no suggestion at all of the cops getting involved, however, until after Clementi committed suicide.
posted by yoink at 9:09 AM on March 17, 2012


All right, how about "It's pretty obvious given similar cases in the US that, had this been a white student of affluence, very little media attention would have been given to this small legal discrepancy in the young master's life."?
I'm not sure why you keep bringing up "affluence," given that Ravi is clearly pretty affluent. He drove a BMW, is the son of a software engineer, disdained "poor people" (as in "Dude, I hate poor people"), and seems to have put Clementi into the "poor people" category because Clementi was concerned when his computer broke. Racism could have been a factor here, and citizenship clearly is a huge issue, but if Ravi isn't a "student of affluence," I don't know who is.

It's hard to compare, because of the homophobia aspect, but the students in the Phoebe Prince case are middle-class white kids, and the media and justice system were initially very hard on them. They eventually took plea bargains that were, I believe, pretty similar to what was offered to Ravi.
posted by craichead at 9:15 AM on March 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


The emails and IMs in the New Yorker article make the whole thing much more mysterious than it was before. Clementi seems annoyed but not at all shattered by Ravix, and what's more, he seems to be working through the proper channels to get Ravi punished.

The thing that keeps haunting me from that New Yorker article is that last conversation Ravi and Clementi had, right before Clementi killed himself. The one that no one knows anything about, because they were not online for it.

I wonder what was said in that conversation.
posted by winna at 9:16 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


All right, how about "It's pretty obvious given similar cases in the US that, had this been a white student of affluence, very little media attention would have been given to this small legal discrepancy in the young master's life."?

I'm not sure if you are asking seriously. If you are, then no, paraphrasing with added sarcasm does not substantiate the eyebrow-raising.
posted by cribcage at 9:46 AM on March 17, 2012


It doesn't really matter if he gets a slap on the wrist or 100 years of hard labor. Nothing will ever remove the damned spot of another human being's blood from his hands.
posted by double block and bleed at 11:28 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


modernnomad: " I tend to think that Ravi could do a lot more good if ordered to tour college campuses talking about how his closed-mindedness and thoughtlessness resulted in the death of a fellow college classmate rather than sitting in a jail cell for a decade."

If you followed the case at all, it should be pretty obvious that this was never a possibility; Ravi would never have done it. I find it difficult to believe that Ravi's coverup, subsequent complete lack of empathy or remorse, and rejection of numerous generous plea bargains (which could have included something to what you described) did not play a significant factor in the ruling and sentencing.

That said, if anything about this trial was unreasonably generous, it's the plea bargain that Molly Wei was offered, and accepted. Her behavior was just as despicable as Ravi's (if not even moreso). I'd also have been a bit upset if Ravi actually took the generous plea deal that he was offered, although his reluctance to accept such a generous deal certainly affirms my belief that the jury ruled correctly here. It provides a rock-solid data point that Ravi is an unrepentant sociopath.

the cydonian: " it does seem likely that he wouldn't have committed suicide hadn't it been for this American Pie escapade"

Now, here's the single tricky bit about this trial. There is literally no evidence on the public record beyond speculation that provides any insight into Tyler Clementi's motives for taking his own life. Though it's obvious that the trial and subsequent ruling were affected by the fact that Clementi did in fact kill himself, it seems as though the charges against Ravi would still be valid, had Tyler lived. (Hell, I'll go as far as to admit that I can make absolutely no sense of the sequence of events that transpired immediately before Tyler took his own life)
posted by schmod at 1:10 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


There has been sloppy reporting of the bias intimidation charges. New Jersey's bias intimidation statute covers situations in which the victim need only have a reasonable belief that the offense was committed because the victim's sexual orientation, etc., or that the victim was selected due to his having a certain sexual orientation, etc.

So this law substitutes victim belief for specific criminal intent with regard to the main element of the crime. I hope at least that portion gets struck down.


Hmm, well, much to my surprise, this seems to be true of other kinds of charges. I'm currently involved in a case where someone is threatening me over email. To cops, talking to the crazy dude making the threats, told him today that it doesn't matter what he intended. If I felt threatened, and I do, they will press charges, slowed only by the difficulty of proving the case over emails. I was a little surprised.
posted by etaoin at 1:49 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would have thought filming someone having sex without their permission and arranging to broadcast it in however limited a fashion, along with promoting that via twitter might well bring some sort of criminal charge, even in a college setting and without the suicide. While 10 years would be a harsh sentence, I think jail time is not out of line even without any extenuating circumstances.

I've read in a few places that he filming was a minor offence, which just boggles my mind. In an age when having inappropriate pictures online can ruin a life, potentially having a sex tape out there - whatever the genders involved - is more than a minor issue. Unless you're Paris Hilton, that is. It's just a vile thing to try to do to someone, no matter what else was going on and outside of the suicide. I find it hard to have any sympathy for Ravi.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:11 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


So this law substitutes victim belief for specific criminal intent with regard to the main element of the crime

This did just jump out at me as well. No law training myself, but I would be very interested if anyone can shed some light on the matter. (Thanks etoin!)

Is it really old hat or a new kind of thing? If new, is it causing upset or going down like milk of magnesia? Genuinely curious.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:08 PM on March 17, 2012




One thought regarding the motives for suicide. There seem to have been three documents on Clementi's computer that were suicide notes ("Gahhh", "Sorry", and "Whydoeseverythinghurtsomuch"). The judge said they couldn't be admitted as evidence because they didn't concern the case. Those with more legal knowledge than me, please speak up, but... Doesn't that indicate that his suicide note doesn't mention Ravi, or the filming?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:30 AM on March 18, 2012


No, the judge ruling that alleged suicide notes written by Clementi were inadmissible at this trial does not necessarily indicate anything about the notes' contents.
posted by cribcage at 8:43 AM on March 18, 2012


Well, they may have been offered for one particular purpose and the judge ruled they were inadmissible for that purpose.

They may have been admissible for another purpose, but no party sought to admit them for that purpose.

I could imagine, say, the notes being excluded if the prosecution sought to admit them, with the judge reasoning that they would be irrelevant (Ravi was not charged in connection with the suicide), not at all probative of Ravi's guilt of the indicted offenses, and also unfairly prejudicial to Ravi in that they tend to evoke inappropriate sympathy for Clementi.

However, if proof had been admitted that Clementi was particularly upset by Ravi's actions, or the prosecution was allowed to discuss the suicide or draw any connection between Ravi and the suicide, I can imagine the notes being admissible, as being at least slightly probative of Clementi's state of mind in that he did not mention Ravi in the notes. Obviously not bombshell proof, but I think the defense would have the right to show that Ravi was not mentioned in the notes if the prosecution had been allowed to suggest any connection between Ravi and the suicide.
posted by jayder at 8:58 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another example of how the PURPOSE for which something is sought to be admitted is all-important: let's say the issue is whether Clementi was alive at a certain time. The time stamp on the notes might help prove he was alive at that time. A party might seek to admit them as proof that he was alive at that time. The other party might object saying the notes are unfairly prejudicial. The judge has to balance the probative value against the risk of unfair prejudice, and may exclude them if there's enormous unfair prejudice, or may admit them with an instruction to the jury to disregard the content.

That's a long way of saying that admissibility of evidence is not an all or nothing thing. It is tied to the specific purpose for which it is sought to be admitted. Similarly, a bit of evidence may be excluded as hearsay if offered for one purpose, but admitted if offered for another purpose.
posted by jayder at 9:04 AM on March 18, 2012


The judge excluded the RA's testimony that Clementi came to him requesting a room change because of the camera.
posted by brujita at 9:30 AM on March 18, 2012


The most awful detail in that new yorker article to me was that his parents have not yet been able to view the note he wrote just before leaving for the bridge. He died in fall 2010, and that article was published in February 2012 (written no doubt a bit earlier). That is a long time not to be allowed to view your son's suicide note. It says the "contents have not yet been disclosed" to the family. Does that happen in criminal cases, that to avoid influencing witnesses, they are denied access to info that they'd otherwise receive? It seems cruel here.
posted by salvia at 1:17 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now, here's the single tricky bit about this trial. There is literally no evidence on the public record beyond speculation that provides any insight into Tyler Clementi's motives for taking his own life. Though it's obvious that the trial and subsequent ruling were affected by the fact that Clementi did in fact kill himself, it seems as though the charges against Ravi would still be valid, had Tyler lived.

Oh I actually agree; I should have worded it more clearly. Tyler's motives aren't really known; the connection was my conjecture.
posted by the cydonian at 5:36 PM on March 18, 2012


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