Too little time or too much?
A judge today sentenced former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail and 300 hours of community service for using a video camera to spy on his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi, during a romantic encounter in the dorm. Clementi later jumped from a bridge to his death.
The sentence didn’t satisfy either side. Ravi’s attorneys argued that he shouldn’t spend any time in jail, while prosecutors pushed for a much longer sentence for the charges, including invasion of privacy, witness tampering, tampering of evidence and a hate crime based on bias intimidation.
Telling the crowded courtroom that Ravi had no prior record, Judge Glenn Berman said, “I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi … but I do believe he acted out of colossal insensitivity.”
This tragic case mobilized people all over the country to address the frequent bullying of gay teens.
Judge Glenn Berman addressed Ravi before announcing his sentence, saying: “Nothing I say is intended in any way to disparage you or demean you. I don’t even know you.”
“But I heard this jury say ‘guilty’ 288 times — 24 questions, 12 jurors — that’s the multiplication. And I haven’t heard you apologize once,” he said as Ravi sat silently, his chin often resting on his fist. “You cannot expunge the conduct or the pain you caused.”
Ravi, sitting in a dark suit and tie, sat quietly with his eyes downcast, as he had throughout the morning as Clementi’s parents, brother, and prosecutors appealed for prison time, rejecting arguments that as a first-time offender, Ravi should be spared incarcerations.
“All of the defendant’s actions … were planned, were purposeful, and were malicious,” prosecutor Julia McClure said, describing Ravi as an arrogant attention-seeker and dismissing the defense claim that Ravi meant no harm when he secretly filmed Clementi. It “defies logic and common sense,” she said.
“The jury’s verdict gave some measure of justice … but justice can only be fully realized by respecting and enforcing the law and punishing this defendant for his conduct, his criminal acts,” she said.
Defense attorney Steve Altman read a statement to Berman after Clementi’s mother, father, brother and a man secretly filmed with Clementi demanded prison time for Ravi.
Altman said he had come before the packed courtroom with an anxiety “1,000-fold more than what I’ve ever experienced before” because he knew he needed to persuade Berman to keep Ravi out of jail. “I know that’s climbing a mountain,” he said, but he repeated his argument that the case had been overshadowed by Clementi’s suicide even though Ravi was not charged in his death.
“This isn’t about a simple invasion of privacy,” he said. “This case is being tried and it’s being treated and exists today as if it’s a murder case.” Even the victim impact statements “are replete with suggestions … that Dharun has some responsibility, some role in that terrible, terrible choice of Tyler’s.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog