Dharun Ravi is Charged with a Hate Crime

Today, a New Jersey grand jury indicted Dharun Ravi with hate crime charges. Ravi was a freshman at Rutgers University when he streamed footage of his roommate, Tyler Clementi, becoming intimate with another man on September 19, 2010. Tragically, on September 22, Clementi committed suicide by leaping from the George Washington Bridge.

If he is convicted, Ravi could receive five to ten years in prison for invading his roommate’s privacy and attempting to cover up his actions– the 19-year old deleted a tweet that invited people to watch Clementi a second time and did other desperate things:

In addition, prosecutors accuse Ravi of attempting to mislead the investigation, deleting text messages and Twitter posts, and trying to persuade witnesses not to testify against him. He is charged with evidence and witness tampering, and hindering prosecution. [The Record]

According to ABC news, “Ravi filmed Clementi with the purpose of intimidating him” for being attracted to other men:

Ravi “disclosed a photograph, film, videotape, recording or other reproduction of the image of [Clementi]…whose intimate parts were exposed,” the indictment reads.

The enormous amount of publicity surrounding the case means it will be scrutinized:

Legal scholars said the case would be closely watched and could have ripple effects. “Charging this as a bias crime may send a message to prosecutors who are dealing with similar cases in other states about the particularly damaging consequences of this kind of crime,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the Columbia Law School Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. [NYT]

The case against Molly Wei–Dharun Ravi’s friend and co-defendant– is still active, though she was not indicted. Ravi went to Wei’s room to accommodate Clementi’s request for privacy…and spy on his roomate via webcam. Ravi and Wei are no longer Rutgers students.

Clementi’s family had hoped that pursuing a case against Ravi would emphasize that his actions were more than a prank:

“The grand jury indictment spells out cold and calculated acts against our son Tyler by his former college roommate,” the Clementi family said in a statement released after the indictment was returned.

“If these facts are true, as they appear to be, then it is important for our criminal justice system to establish clear accountability under the law. We are eager to have the process move forward for justice in this case and to reinforce the standards of acceptable conduct in our society,” the Clementi family said. [Reuters]

Clementi’s parents aren’t the only ones who hope the indictment sends a message to other potential bullies:

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a gay-rights advocacy group, said “potential bullies will now think harder before demolishing another student’s life.” [NYT]

30 thoughts on “Dharun Ravi is Charged with a Hate Crime

  1. There is no correct side that you can stand in, and feel content in your decision. This is a continuing tragedy of young lives abruptly ended.

    There’s a part of me that questions: Was this a juvenile prank that went too far? Are all the charges justified? One family has been destroyed and two other families have the same impending fate.

    and there’s a part of me that empathizes: It’d be wrong to expect Tyler’s family to want anything less than “justice”. I’ve always thought that the “it gets better” videos were a sad commentary on the state of society today. How ashamed should we be as a society, when we have to tell our children to continue suffering because “it gets better”. A kid that can barely bear the pain of existing in the present, is not consoled by the paper dreams of a “less-violent” future.

    I’d rather see society pass stricter anti-bullying laws, hold parents responsible, demand schools to have compulsory classes on anti-bullying and gay rights/history.

    I’ll steal a quote from trev on towleroad.com, because it is close to how I feel :

    “My compassion for them (Ravi and Wei) is tempered by my empathy for Tyler as he stood against the bridge railing that night. No teenager should ever have to feel that pain.”

    • I’m similarly torn on this one. As someone who is brown and gay & is well aware of the rampant homophobia in the brown community I can’t decide whether Ravi was just being a stupid teenager or there was also some homophobia involved. The other thing is – whether Tyler was gay or not – you don’t invade someone’s privacy like that. If it was a straight girl that Ravi had been watching & recording on camera – we’d think of him as a huge pervert, not just a ‘stupid teenager’.

      Either way – what a waste of three lives…

  2. Ravi is definitely responsible for invading Clementi’s privacy and certainly showing poor judgement throughout the situation but I don’t see how he is responsible for a relatively homophobic society and Clementi’s consequent suicide. I can also state unequivocally that the sentence, however severe, will do nothing to deter a future Ravi/Wei. Have we learned nothing from Kleiman, etc.? The social approbation Ravi is no doubt experiencing (however condescending it may be to gays) was immediate and likely unceasing should he choose to do ANYTHING in that part of the country–and that’s the only thing I can think of as a true deterrent. Hate crime laws did not prevent a group of black men from curb stomping two drunk white guys while taping the encounter and advertising the logo of their record label in my fair city. How will this be any different? http://youtu.be/TBzCKGp3UNU

  3. Brother Dharun Ravi is an innocent fellow. He did, however, invade someone’s privacy. I’m so surprised at how society has come down on him HARD. He’s such a scapegoat. However, he’s guilty to the extent that he invaded someone’s privacy and being obnoxious, but that’s all. I’m convinced that Dharun is a kind and polite guy. He shouldn’t even have to beg the world for a second chance. I’m convinced that he has gay and other minority friends from an array of socio-economic backgrounds.

    Tyler has already tried to commit suicide BEFORE ever having met Ravi. Tyler was a depressed guy, and death was his first choice, it seems. He didn’t even go to his RA or to law enforcement after this event transpired. In his journal, he’s said GOOD things about his roommate Dharun, actually.

    Broom made a good point suggesting that if Tyler were a girl, things would be a lot different, and I agree. Also, if Tyler were brown and Dharun a white, do you think that things would be different? This is an opinion-based question, and I just like your thoughts on that. I’m not sure what to believe on race as a factor.

  4. I don’t understand how anyone could dismiss this a juvenile prank, really. It was a severe invasion of privacy, plus he has been found guilty for tampering with evidence, lying to make it seem like his actions were less pathetic than they were. As for the last charge – the hate crime – I can see this is an issue that is going to divide a lot of people because it is hard to tell what the motivations behind his actions were.I also don’t feel comfortable dismissing him as just a kid who did something stupid, etc. I’m a college student myself, I see the typical types of pranks that Frat boys like to pull around here, and this in my opinion can’t be fairly lumped with that. This wasn’t a late night TP-ing of the rival frat house for godsake.

    It also bothers me that in other articles I’ve read, people who know Ravi/Wei keep insisting on how smart they were in high school, they had high SAT scores, took advanced classes, etc – seriously? No offense but the impression I got from reading quotes from some of his friends was that because he’s a book-smart kid who probably would have had a bright future otherwise, he should be excused for actions. Tbh I find it hard to feel too sorry for Ravi at all after all he’s done, but I do have a lot of sympathy for his family, friends and community.

  5. I think to be honest the punishment would have been severe; but the way he tried to cover up is somewhat obnoxious.

    I’m trying very hard not to pass judgment, since people in panic do that, but there has to be some remorse for what he did?

  6. Brother Dharun Ravi is an innocent fellow. He did, however, invade someone’s privacy. I’m so surprised at how society has come down on him HARD. He’s such a scapegoat.

    Seriously Boston? The kid is anything but “innocent”, he has made that clear repeatedly with his actions, not only the crime he committed, but also repeatedly posting it online and later tampering with evidence to hide his crime. And you’re surprised people are coming down on him hard? That is frankly repulsive of you to say that he’s “innocent”. And btw, Clementi did go to his RA previously. I’m not surprised the RA didn’t do anything – I don’t go to Rutgers but if the administration there is anything like my schools, you practically have to prove your roommie’s plotting to kill you to get a room change.

    I knew sooner or later someone would bring color into it…but you’re right, it may be a factor on how society perceives it. Well I remember hearing about this right after it happened through word of mouth and I assumed Ravi was White (because everyone was pronouncing his name “Darren” and most people are white so it was just an assumption) and my opinion on the matter hasn’t changed since finding how he’s brown skinned.

  7. People. Ten years is almost a murder or rape level sentence. Turning someone into a scapegoat for the gay community to take all of its pent up resentment out on is not “justice” by any stretch of the imagination. Calling it a “coverup” to delete a twitter post kind of stretches the limits of credibility too. When someone says something like “potential bullies will now think harder before demolishing another student’s life,” that really doesn’t make me think “Oh justice is done.” It makes it sound to me like someone wanted a show trial.

    And while Clementi did go to his RA, the issue there isn’t that he didn’t get a room change. The RA should have been referring him to some sort of campus psychological service. Suicide is not the bully’s fault. It’s not anyone’s fault but the one pulling the trigger. People, even victims, need to be accountable for their own choices.

  8. The RA should have been referring him to some sort of campus psychological service. Suicide is not the bully’s fault. It’s not anyone’s fault but the one pulling the trigger. People, even victims, need to be accountable for their own choices.

    I don’t get why I literally see people repeating this argument all over the place. No one is claiming Ravi pushed the kid off the Washington bridge here, he is being accused of invasion of privacy, coverup, and now a hate crime. He’s been found guilty of the first 2 and I wouldn’t be surprised if the latter is true as well. And I’m not from Jersey but I’d be shocked if 10 years if the punishment for murder – the punishment for murder in half the country is the electric chair or death by lethal injection for godsake.

  9. “I don’t get why I literally see people repeating this argument all over the place. No one is claiming Ravi pushed the kid off the Washington bridge here, he is being accused of invasion of privacy, coverup, and now a hate crime.”

    The reason this argument is being made, is because one can imagine a scenario where someone commits suicide due to perceived humiliation not related to sexual orientation. There have been posts in the past about the rate of suicide among South Asians. During my four years of college, 3 young Indian women took their lives. Some said it was due to family or academic issues. Might a set of high-expectation parents be held accountable for their child’s suicide? In our family, there are hushed whispers of a woman back in the 1980′s who took her own life, and whether or not her husband’s verbal and mental abuse was the trigger. Using a high-profile case like this to charge someone as being responsible for someone’ suicide carries risks.

    As for the hate crime issue – to me, this was always a bit odd. Is there any crime that is motivated by affection? Prior to the suicide, did Ravi demonstrate a pattern of hostility to gays, or was he making fun of some poor, quiet young man with no friends simply because he was there? When I got mugged and my face scratched by the mugger, was it less serious because the mugger did not use a racial slur? When I was pelted with rocks by some kids, should I be thankful that my ethnicity was not the reason?

    There seems to be a much stronger case on the invasion of privacy, and for that, I have no qualms with making Ravi an example – if the prosecution can prove its case.

  10. The reason this argument is being made, is because one can imagine a scenario where someone commits suicide due to perceived humiliation not related to sexual orientation. There have been posts in the past about the rate of suicide among South Asians. During my four years of college, 3 young Indian women took their lives. Some said it was due to family or academic issues. Might a set of high-expectation parents be held accountable for their child’s suicide? In our family, there are hushed whispers of a woman back in the 1980′s who took her own life, and whether or not her husband’s verbal and mental abuse was the trigger. Using a high-profile case like this to charge someone as being responsible for someone’ suicide carries risks.

    I appreciate what you’re trying to say, but I don’t think your analogy fits because again, he was not arrested for being responsible for the suicide, he was indicted on charges of invasion of privacy. I’m not denying there’s some people out there who are angry and would accuse him of being responsible for Clementi’s death, but legally that’s not really the issue here. Even if he was found guilty of a hate crime, that’s not the same as accusing him of conspiring to kill his roommate or even wishing it.

  11. I think 5-10 sounds reasonable. Of course he will get out in much less than that. I just hope that Dharun Ravi is forever known as a homophobe, bully and asshole. Who knows, maybe in a few years time he will commit suicide too!

  12. “Suicide is not the bully’s fault” – I am sorry, but I have to whole heartedly disagree with that fact.

    If people are contributing to someone’s daily quality of life, making them feel less than human, making them question their self-worth and potential, making them unable to enjoy things like acceptance, equality and basic friendship that many other people take for granted, they are completely culpable.

    This is especially true for teenagers and young adults. And we all know many brown kids have a longer emotional developmental period where we grow up experiencing things in our 20s that we should have in our teens, depending on how strict our parents were.

    Yes, the choice to take one’s life is ultimately with the victim, that does not wash the blood from the hands of those that drove them to it.

  13. Who knows, maybe in a few years time he will commit suicide too!

    I was really proud of the civil discussion which had been occurring here.

    This is a terrible, tragic situation– so I understand passionate reactions–but I don’t know if the sentiment above is a productive addition to the thread.

  14. Well, munna, you are very angry too. What position are you seeking: the position of moral outrage or the position of a victim?

  15. Also, the last time when a post was made about this article it had a shade of “Boo-hoo Brown boy got indicted, not fair, if he was only white then…” At least this time around the writer treads on the side of reason. A bully is a bully is a bully and they come in all shapes, sizes and colors and genders.

  16. I think the courts should look into is background and see if he has been a habitual offender. If this is just a one time indiscretion, I think they should give him a break . Besides our jails are full enough as it is. Bullying is a serious offense but jail time for bullying?

    • For the record, there’s a whole lot of nonsense crammed into this post. I am not getting into it, but just laying it out there.

  17. Why does jail have to be the punishment all the time? Why is community service rarely considered? A competent emotional coach could easily reform a bully into a spokesperson who advocates treating people well.

  18. “If people are contributing to someone’s daily quality of life, making them feel less than human, making them question their self-worth and potential, making them unable to enjoy things like acceptance, equality and basic friendship that many other people take for granted, they are completely culpable. “

    I agree with you, but that doesn’t carry much weight unless the “feeling of less than human” is so bad that it results in suicide. Unfortunately. That kind of justice you just have to hope gets meted out by the great karmic forces in the world.

    Oh how I would like to exact retribution on each bully that made me feel less than human growing up. Unfortunately, I’d be the one charged with a crime if I did want sometimes I feel is just, and what I’d really think is deserved by each and every one of those bullies.

    The best revenge is success, I hope the next gay guy targetted by a dharun ravi decides for himself to become the first gay president, and declare war on Iraq Iran and every other nation in the world by saying, “you guys are just meanies. and you can’t be mean to us, so I’m gonna drop a bunch of bombs on you meanies”

  19. what this kid did is vile. he should be prosecuted. But again, I post on these pages, my objection to the very notion of a “hate crime”.

    A crime X doesn’t immediately become worse and worthy of more punishment if the victim was a member of any group. A crime is a crime is a crime.

    That is all.

  20. I’d just like to say to those people who state that this bully should not be made to pay for the prejudices of society, and that he is being unfairly punished, well, he obviously was aware of the prejudices, he was capitalizing and counting on those prejudices to get his cheap thrills. I am very glad that he is getting punished like this, because hopefully it tells people that they CAN NOT behave in this manner. I want my children to grow up in a world where tolerance for people different than them is the norm, and criminalizing that intolerance is a good step towards that.

  21. THe theory for punishing hate crimes is that it spreads the effect of dehumanizing potential victims among a larger group of people diluting the effect of the crimes for these potential criminals.

    Personally, I am indifferent to this issue as to whether we need a hate crime designation. But I am here just to offer my lil theory as to why it could make sense for some people.

  22. Cyberbullying has become a huge issue in our country. Though I cannot seem to find accurate statistics that indicate its true prevalence, it is almost every week I’ve heard of some teenager killing themselves due to some sort of online bullying. Could the popularity of the topic be due to the sensationalist nature of media or due to it being a truly rising problem? Who knows.

    It is scary to think how much of our identities are digitalized now. Before social networking sites like Facebook, one could be bullied in the school hallways and still be able to retreat to a haven at the end of the day that is immune to these vicious acts. Those that were bullied for being strange in their high school years end up shedding that image as they mature and move away, finding their niche in life and finally being comfortable in their own skin. I don’t think this is possible anymore. With the way technology is these days, your past trails you no matter how much you want to forget and something as embarrassing as being digitally taped having sex with someone could never truly be erased.

    I could imagine that if I were taped having some sort of encounter in my dorm room for everyone to see, I would have been mortified beyond belief and I am straight. I truly feel for this poor guy that could not see himself digging out of the abyss of embarrassment. What this man did was humiliating and a complete violation of a helpless person’s private intimate life, and there is nothing that can convince me otherwise. I don’t see this as a hate crime, mostly because what crime isn’t hateful, but what this guy did was absolutely wrong and deserves some sort of reprimand.

  23. “What this man did was humiliating and a complete violation of a helpless person’s private intimate life, and there is nothing that can convince me otherwise.”

    agreed. there was mens rea involved in his act

    “I don’t see this as a hate crime”

    Well, Calling a hate crime doesn’t mean that non-hate crimes are loving or endearing. I think the idea is that the motivation for the crime is purely (or substantially) because the person belongs to a group that’s well known to have been unduly ostracized and dealt with bigotry. Example: Gays, non-whites, women (although I think men can be victims in some cases of hate crimes)

    Calling something a ‘hate crime’ is acknowledging that history, that’s all. It isn’t saying a crime against a straight white male is a loving act.

    “With the way technology is these days, your past trails you no matter how much you want to forget and something as embarrassing as being digitally taped having sex with someone could never truly be erased.”

    That’s true, however, with technology, there’s such a deluge of information out there, that your past can be replaced by the next video of the hour. That’s not to say it won’t be hurtful, but I see it as a same amount of hurtfullness pre-facebook. Also, there are ways to exact punitive damages from offenders that distribute “embarassing” content, although this is not the same as sexual acts, here is some precedent:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/where-are-they-now-the-star-wars-kid-2010-5

  24. It would seem that the gay community, or at least a segment of it, wants to see blood now as punishment against 18 year old Dharun Ravi. What is troubling is that the gay community now has the power to influence that. While I am certainly not condoning the actions of Mr. Ravi, he is still 18 and just barely an adult by virtue of his age. Whoever will be involved in deciding Mr. Ravi’s fate, should really think very hard in how far they want to punish what may have been a stupid prank by a stupid kid.