I wrote previously that I didn’t want to see the Rutger’s student accused of spying on Tyler Clementi be made an example of with an overly harsh sentence or deportation. Unfortunately, by sentencing Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail, probation and a fine, Judge Glenn Berman did make an example out of him. A bad one.
Even though Berman noted that Ravi never apologized — Tyler Clementi’s father previously stated that Ravi never showed remorse, and I completely agree after reviewing his interview(s) — the judge still made a statement with his sentence: a statement that said that callously invading someone’s privacy, sharing their most private moments with the world and publicly ridiculing them was not a serious offense; that Ravi’s life is somehow more valuable than Tyler Clementi’s; and that the anguish that Ravi’s family went through should be weighed more than the anguish that Clementi’s family will live with forever. Berman, in my opinion, also sent a clear message to gay kids and other victims of cyber bullying in this country — that the law will only pay lip service to your safety. You will not be protected or vindicated in any real way by the Matthew Shepard and Robert Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, which does not seem to extend to cyber bullying, nor will you be by the justice system in ad hoc cases.
Do I think Ravi is homophobic or hateful at his very core? I have no idea. I don’t know him. I do believe, however, that at his age he certainly should have known that transmitting video of his roommate without his knowledge (yet alone consent), and humiliating him, was wrong and had the potential to do great harm. I believe that somehow, even at his age, Ravi still believes that others are there solely for his benefit and/or entertainment and that he does not know right from wrong; his intentions clearly went beyond ‘keeping an eye on his stuff’. And, by all outward appearances — sleeping in court — and tweets (“How can I convince my mom to let me go back Friday night and get drunk?”), Ravi still believes that the world revolves around him and, more importantly, he lacks empathy and remorse.
Ravi’s lawyers, of course, argued that the inclusion of “hate crime” in the charges was too much, was blown out of proportion, and it looks like Judge Berman gave their argument too much consideration. Regardless, though, with or without calling Ravi’s actions a hate crime, his actions were criminal (not just mean-spirited), yet that fact is barely recognizable in Berman’s sentence. Even some peeping toms (and I’m not speaking of serial stalkers, peepers, predators, etc.) who shared their “activities” with no one have received harsher sentences.
Berman’s sentence for Ravi seems more appropriate for a an old-boys network or school playground: In a thinly veiled attempt to protect himself politically, Berman slapped Ravi on the wrist for behaving stupidly…and, more importantly, for getting caught.