Enough justice has been served in Rutgers case

Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers student who came to national notoriety for his harassment of gay roommate Tyler Clementi, received Monday a sentence of 30 days in jail, three years’ probation, 300 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine for illegally spying on and filming Clementi having an intimate moment with another man.

Design by Christina Ellis

And though prosecutors never accused Ravi of being responsible, the tragic suicide of the 18-year-old Clementi off the George Washington Bridge in September 2010 left many clamoring for justice: They wanted Ravi, now 20, to pay.

Thirty days in jail doesn’t seem that bad when you compare it to the 10 years in prison that prosecutors wanted, based on Ravi’s conviction last March of invasion of privacy, witness tampering, tampering of evidence and the hate crime of bias intimidation. But looking at what Ravi actually did, and not the aftermath of his offenses, his relatively short sentence appears to be on the mark.  If anything 30 days in jail is too long.

Ravi acted in an irresponsible, mean-spirited manner in using a webcam to spy on his roommate and revealing Clementi’s deeply private actions.  And even now, he acts unrepentant: “I heard this jury say ‘guilty’ 288 times. 24 questions, 12 jurors — that’s the multiplication. And I haven’t heard you apologize once,” Judge Glenn Berman told Ravi on Monday.  Berman went on to say that Ravi acted out of “colossal insensitivity,” which many could agree with.

But that’s exactly the problem: Ravi acted insensitively, but bullying of this kind — observing others with an intent to belittle, setting up heartless pranks and the like — plays a common role in the lives of many American teenagers, whether they’re perpetrators or victims. The kind of intolerance that Ravi showed, be it referring to Clementi as a “f-g” or derisively tweeting about him “kissing a dude,” isn’t new: Anyone who has attended high school knows that this sort of behavior exists in droves.

It’s aggravatingly difficult to draw the line between bullying and genuine, punishable hate crime. What of the countless bullies who do more than just spy, but shove, beat and threaten people in the shadows of the schoolyard, only to get a weak-handed reprimand by the principal? Can we charge them all with the hate crime of “bias intimidation”? Should they all be going to jail?

Clementi’s sexual orientation, along with his suicide, makes it incredibly easy to play connect-the-dots when it comes to the Rutgers case.  It’s simple to say that Clementi would have been fine — and wouldn’t have killed himself — if Ravi hadn’t done anything.  It’s simple to pick and choose Ravi’s insults and say that homophobia clearly played a prevailing role.  It’s simple to make this case out to be a lesson about hatred toward the gay community, and how it needs to be stopped.

But trying to find meaning in Clementi’s death ignores the greater point: Not enough evidence exists to justify this as a hate crime in the traditional vicious sense. The law must punish based on actions alone, not context or the aftermath of a crime.

As far as we can really tell, Ravi didn’t target Clementi because he was gay — Ravi did it because, well, he just didn’t really like Clementi, and made fun of everything from Clementi’s nerdiness to his economic status. One can only wonder what sort of effect the issue of gay discrimination, along with the high-profile suicide, had on the jury in its deliberation.

What’s clear is this: Ravi’s conviction will follow him for the rest of his life. Considering that some readers probably have acted even more maliciously than Ravi ever did and gotten away with it, 30 days in jail seems to be more than enough.


Eddie Kim is a senior majoring in print journalism and editorial director for the Summer Trojan.

20 replies
  1. Miguel
    Miguel says:

    “Great Article” Jack? It sucks. I think the USC community is going to be watching the DT

    • SCQueen
      SCQueen says:

      The DT is the most LGBT friendly school paper outside of Berkeley. This article is just some cover for the straights and haters among us. Lighten up LGBT community.

  2. Jack
    Jack says:

    Great article. It’s a shame the commenters are so ignorant. Ravi was railroaded…he should never have faced criminal charges in the first place. Sure what he did was wrong, but it doesn’t deserve incarceration. Kids bully each other, and in the end it makes them stronger and more prepared to deal with a society where not everyone will treat them like a beautiful snowflake.

  3. Dave
    Dave says:

    I just don’t want my school news paper editor to be so insensitive to gay guys like my self. I think it was a hate crime, and the many gay friends and faculty here at USC feel terrible that no justice was done.

  4. G-frog
    G-frog says:

    For all of you who disagree with the ruling and this article: What charges would you have sentenced against Ravi that he wasn’t already sentenced with?

    • Heterosexual POV
      Heterosexual POV says:

      90 days in prison with the regular population; order him to engage in “community outreach” programs to gay people; face Clementi’s family members in person, and apologize eye to eye; and anything to forge a sense of contrition in him. The guy is defiant, arrogant, stubborn and will not concede to the egregiousness of his actions.

  5. Hans
    Hans says:

    I was not happy with the ruling. My brother is in the closet to my parents who are Mormon. Four of brothers and sisters support my gay brother 100 percent. The other ones are too young. But it was hell for him to tell me, he had no idea how I was going to react. He thought about many things including ending his life. I disagree with this ruling and this article.

  6. Bob
    Bob says:

    He did not know that the guy was going to kill him self, one could argue. When people in South Central shoot guns into the air and accidentally shoot someone, should they get 4 weeks for firing a gun in celebration? They did not meant to harm anyone, one could argue. If someone has an abortion, tells someone in the privacy of her home is spied and videotaped and gets put on a video to be made public in the world wide web by an other to cause harm, and kills her self, should that person get 4 weeks. I know that we all come from a different spectrum of society.We all know that many young gay men often kill them selves because society and their families think of them as an abomination. I know this was NYC where gay life is normal to many, but is not the norm in the 50 states, or the bible belt or the place from where Rabi and Clementi were from. If Ravi would have been gay and this scenario would have happened to him, he would likely have killed him self. He is guilty of the murder of Clementi. If Eddie Kim would have been in Clementi scenario, there is a good chance he would have brought shame to his family. Eddie Kim does not have the leadership and character to be editor.

    • nnnnathan
      nnnnathan says:

      “When people in South Central shoot guns into the air and accidentally shoot someone, should they get 4 weeks for firing a gun in celebration?” -This is a separate issue, as shooter is directly responsible for the injuries of the person. Ravi was not directly responsible for Clementi’s suicide. He did not force the consequence. Clementi, though I’m sure in extreme pain, did not need to commit suicide.

      Don’t get me wrong, I despise Ravi I’m sure as much as you do, and I am all for gay rights and ensuring equal treatment and protection for everyone. But I don’t think that Ravi should be punished any more than the sentence he was given.

      • ur argument is null
        ur argument is null says:

        You use a “false analogy” yourself. When CARELESS people shoot guns in the air, they don’t intend for the stray bullet to hurt anyone, but sometimes do.

        Ravi didn’t intend for his actions to set in motion Clementi’s suicide, but they did.

        Typically, when people use the hackeneyed, “I am all for gay rights; I’m not racist, I got 3 black friends, 4 Hispanic ones…” they’re usually the opposite of that. And ironically, people who don’t say those kinds of things, are branded as bigots. It means: Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve; talk is cheap.

  7. Meg
    Meg says:

    According to the article Kim or the court does not see that because of the actions taken by Ravi a young man is dead. He put this video on the internet, knowing that at the very least, it would hurt and embarrass the guys involved. If I had been a juror I would have given him the maximum sentence under law. As far as Kim I think he is insensitive to gays. He caresless for the rights of many students on this campus and he does not for me. I would want Kim removed from his possition as summer editor, please resign.

    • nnnnathan
      nnnnathan says:

      That’s because Ravi wasn’t directly responsible for the death of Tyler Clementi. Sure, his actions may have contributed to a lifelong string of harassment that culminated in Clementi’s suicide, but it isn’t like Ravi dragged Clementi to the bridge and pushed him off. What Ravi did was terrible. That’s undeniable. But we can’t look beyond Ravi’s actions and claim that Clementi’s death was directly caused by the actions of his roommate. Kim isn’t insensitive to homosexuals, he’s looking at the law with reason removed from emotion just as the jurors did. What Ravi did wasn’t murder, and some may argue, as Kim stated, that his actions were minor compared to some of the physical types of bullying that go unpunished. In this case the eventual consequences were far worse, but this wasn’t a direct result of Ravi’s actions.

  8. 808
    808 says:

    All of you are criticizing the article and Eddie based on emotion and not reason. Perhaps the article wasn’t as sensitive to the tragic event as you would’ve liked it to be, but that doesn’t make what Eddie was saying any less true. Ravi was punished for actions he committed in violation of the law. The consequences, I’m sure, were far beyond what Ravi expected. However, these consequences were caused indirectly by Ravi’s insensitive actions. If you look at what he did you’ll see that he did not violate laws to justify a harsher sentence. The kid’s a bully, not a killer. And Eddie wasn’t saying that Ravi’s or similar actions are justified because the perpetrators are young or do not cause damage, but rather that bullying worse than Ravi’s that happen to have less dire consequences happen everyday and go unpunished. So yes, this was a tragedy that we should do everything we can to avoid. But at the end of the day, Ravi didn’t commit crimes punishable by more than the sentence he was given, no matter how bad the consequences his actions caused.

  9. DeShawn
    DeShawn says:

    Everyone needs to back the hell off here. Eddie is simply approaching this from a different perspective, one that stands farther away from emotion and sits on the seat of logic. Ravi should go to jail for the things he was convicted of and by no means is his behavior excusable not should it be tolerated. But the reality here is that Ravi did not kill anyone nor should he be considered a killer. Ravi was prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Based on the evidence he’s a complete shthead but guess what, he wasn’t a killer. Plenty of a-holes like Ravi insult, bully, and intimidate others but we don’t prosecute them only because nobody got physically hurt? Ravi deserves to go to jail but Ravi didn’t make anyone jump off a bridge. I do think that this issue is one that the law should take a firmer stance on though. Go Eddie. Fight on bro.

  10. theone
    theone says:

    Perhaps we need to forgive Eddie Kim for his writings. When republican politicians go out of their way to deny rights to homosexuals, they end up on the news soliciting sex from other men in bathroom at airports. Sometimes we need to read between the lines, and be forgiving. The best to you Eddie Kim, be strong.

  11. 1Trojan
    1Trojan says:

    Perhaps we need to forgive Eddie Kim for his writings. When republican politicians go out of their way to deny rights to homosexuals, they end up on the news soliciting sex from other men in bathroom at airports. Sometimes we need to read between the lines, and be forgiving. The best to you Eddie Kim, be strong.

  12. 1Trojan
    1Trojan says:

    Eddie Kim is a disgrace to this new paper and should not be in the Daily Trojan. This is probably something that is common place in Eddie Kim’s world but it does not make it right. Same on you. Leave USC

  13. nope
    nope says:

    Please read the New Yorker profile of Ravi and rewrite your article.

    So your argument is that actions which harm other people are fine when you are young/if you stop before real damage is done.
    Let’s stop for a moment and remember that Clementi KILLED himself. I’m sure there were other factors involved, but Ravi’s repeated actions obviously had an impact as Clementi went to Ravi’s Twitter right before going to the bridge.
    Clementi’s mother, father, siblings will never see him again, partly because Ravi is a bad person/very insecure, and yes probably fairly homophobic. You see to agree that actions have consequences, but to me, a gay man who faced a lot of abuse growing up for my sexuality, 30 days in jail is basically nothing. It is galling that you would suggest it is not enough.
    I am going to postulate that you would be singing a very different tune if you were harassed based on someone’s perception of your race. Think about that for awhile and try to write sensitive, reason opinion pieces in the future.
    If you’re the editorial director for the summer, I sudder to think what the rest of the summer’s opinion piece will look like.

    • ek1
      ek1 says:

      +1. Ravi is defiant and not contrite. It doesn’t matter that his actions were indirect; they were still egregious in that they lead Clementi to commit suicide.

      My stance is more conservative than liberal, but believe that one’s sexuality is innate.

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