Monday, May 21, 2012

Dharun Ravi Receives 30-Day Jail Sentence In Tyler Clementi Webcam Case

Clementi and Ravi
Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was sentenced today to 30 days in jail, 300 hours of community service, and 3 years of probation for using a webcam to illegally spy on his college roommate having sex.

Ravi was also penalized with a stiff fine, as he was ordered to make a payment of $10,000 to a community-based organization that assists victims of bias crimes.

This seems reasonable, harsh even, until you consider that the roommate involved in the incident, Tyler Clementi, was a vulnerable 18 year-old boy grappling to come to terms with his homosexuality. Clementi, who was mortally embarrassed by the webcam spying, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge a few days later.

In March, Ravi was found guilty of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy, crimes which carried up to a ten-year prison sentence. After his conviction, a great deal of debate ensued about how much responsibility, legal or otherwise, Ravi should shoulder for the death of Clementi. Ravi's actions did, in all likelihood, lead to Clementi's decision to kill himself in September 2010, but the Rutgers student had no other direct involvement in the suicide.

Many followers of the trial, including some gay rights advocates, believed that imposing the full ten-year sentence would be unduly harsh.

While Ravi's actions were repugnant, they argue, the only just course of action requires us to hold Ravi responsible for his crimes, but not for Clementi's decision to take his own life.

While I wouldn't have argued in favor of imposing the full ten-year penalty, a one-month sentence truly does appear to be the proverbial "slap on the wrist." But that's my vengeful unthoughtful instinctive reaction. The truth is, like most people, I didn't know either Dharun Ravi or Tyler Clementi. And I wasn't there in the courtroom, I don't fully understand what Dharun Ravi's last two years have been like, and more importantly, I can't possibly know the contents of his heart. I'll just have to trust the judge and jury on this one.

What I know for certain is that some small good has come from Tyler Clementi's suicide. While it is cold comfort, no doubt, for the friends and family he left behind, Tyler's death and Ravi's subsequent trial have continued to shine a necessary and important light on the ugly, even deadly, implications of bullying.

Perhaps at some point, somewhere in these United States, a closeted gay kid's eternally long and torturous day at school or his intimidating bus ride home will be a little less harrowing, because of what we all learned from the short life and sad death of Tyler Clementi.


  1. Jeff-
    something about the way you wrote this just struck me.
    I think we have a lot to learn from Tyler's short and sad life more than his death.

    Perhaps that's the same thing, but for me a suicide doesn't teach anything. Life teaches. Suicide ends.

    Tyler was ashamed and embarassed because his privacy was invaded. When we get to the point in this world when we feel we don't need to stipulate the sexuality or gender of the person who loses their rights by such an action, then we will have learned something.

    My two cents. Please keep writing. I seldom comment, but always read.

  2. Thanks Judey. I appreciate your thoughtful comments and the fact that you keep coming back to visit the blog for more torture :)