Dharun Ravi gets a slap on the wrist? Or has justice been served?

Last night a Facebook friend posted that Dharun Ravi got sentences to 30 days in jail. Just a recap, Ravi is a Rutgers college student who was rooming with Tyler Clementi. After discovering that Ravi posted a video of an intimate encounter with another man, Clementi took his life. In the days that follow, Ravi tried to tamper with evidence and witnesses. He was found guilty, and faced a possible 10-year sentence. He still faces possible, if improbable deportation.

The response has been pretty profound: some believe that Ravi’s crime was simply a prank that went too far – Clementi was severely depressed and there was no way of Ravi knowing that he would’ve reacted the way he did.

Others point out that if Clementi was straight, the likelihood of his suicide would’ve been nill, as there would be no social repercussion if Clementi’s tryst with a girl was broadcast.

But Clementi was found guilty of bias intimidation and tampering with evidence and witnesses. He showed little-to-no remorse, as the scolding judge pointed out.

And yet, he’s gotten 30 days.

In my former line of work, I dealt with folks in jail. I’ve come across men who have gotten more for shoplifting, overstaying a Visa for a couple months and possessing marijuana. None of these offenses resulted in any deaths.

Initially when I heard that Ravi might get 10 years, I was a bit surprised. I didn’t believe he deserved such a long sentence, and I certainly don’t think he deserves to be deported.

However, 30 days seems awfully lenient – almost laughably so, if this didn’t involve a suicide. Removing the bias intimidation issue, which could be disputed, he did tamper with evidence – that was proven. The prosecution also proved witness tampering, as well.

One wonders what the outcome would’ve been if Clementi was a straight girl.

I believe that aside from the expected sympathy that Clementi’s anguish inspired, there have also been perturbative comments, as well – some from within the LGBT community. Some have expressed that Clementi should’ve been tougher, shouldn’t have succumbed to his despair, allowed Ravi to destroy his life, etc.

To those critics, I say you don’t know Tyler Clementi. No one, not even his closest confidants know what Clementi was going through and there is no one set reaction to being outed. Obviously the most ideal outcome would’ve been Clementi simply shrugging this episode off, but that didn’t happen – and the onus shouldn’t have been on Clementi, but on Ravi to understand just what he was doing.

I understand that the prosecution will appeal with ridiculous sentencing. The judge, in his remarks, shared that he felt this sentencing would be a deterrent for others to behave the way Ravi did; if his comments are taken in good faith, then the judge is sorely lacking in judgment and his creds should be re-examined.

Will Ravi likely “strike” again? Probably not. It’s pretty clear that his intent was a stupid prank, not murder. But then again, Ravi wasn’t up for murder…

It’s interesting that Ravi exhibited such callous, insensitive behavior in relation to Clementi. But then, hearing the testimonies of Ravi’s mom and dad – I’m less surprised – they both looked at the tragedy of the situation as more to do with Ravi’s blunted dreams and hopes, not Clementi’s death.

If there is to be any good that comes out of this terrible story, we shouldn’t just be seeking a heavy penalty for Ravi – that won’t be enough. A real dialogue has to be started among school administrators and our politicians about anti-bullying measures and legislation. Now too many politicians from the right, who may privately abhor bullying, are afraid to stand up for these kinds of laws because it could be construed as support of the LGBT community. It’s this craven fear of lost votes that continues to stain our society. And until we move forward, tragedies like Clementi’s will continue.


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Filed under commentary, Nonfiction

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