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Breaking: Jury returns mixed guilty verdict in Tyler Clementi suicide case

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By Jacob Combs

Dharun Ravi, the former student accused of spying on Tyler Clementi, his roommate at Rutgers University, was found guilty today on charges of invasion of privacy, but not guilty on several charges of bias intimidation.  From CNN:

Ravi, 20, had been on trial on a 15-count indictment that included charges of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, tampering with physical evidence, witness tampering and hindering apprehension.

His roommate, Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, killed himself in September 2010 by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, after learning that Ravi had secretly spied on his sexual encounter with another man.

The most serious charges in the Rutgers case centered on whether Ravi’s actions had constituted bias intimidation, meaning that he was motivated to inspire fear in the Ridgewood, New Jersey, native because of his sexual orientation. Those charges carry jail time of up to 10 years and possible deportation back to his native India.

We’ll have more information and analysis here on P8TT throughout the day as people react to the jury’s decision.

Update 1 (Scottie Thomaston): More on the deportation issue:

Ravi could also be sent back to India, where he was born and remains a citizen, if convicted. The risk of deportation is highest if he is convicted on the most serious charges, said Michael Wildes, a New York City immigration lawyer who is not involved in the case.

Last year, prosecutors offered Ravi, who is in the U.S. legally, a plea bargain that called for no prison time — and help avoiding deportation.

“The decision was made by his legal team to roll the dice,” Wildes said. “We’ll see whether it was a good decision.”

Immigration authorities could seek to have Ravi deported if he is convicted of any crime that lands him a prison sentence of a year or more, Wildes said.

In theory, all 15 of the charges he faces — among them are hindering apprehension, tampering with a witness and tampering with evidence — could result in prison time.

David Badash has more details of the next stage:

Sentencing will be on May 21, 2012. Ravi is 20 years old, and faces 10 years in jail, and possible deportation as he is not a U.S. citizen. he will remain free on bail, having surrendered his passport.

Earlier, the defense team had argued what has become a standard rationalization of homophobic behavior, and Lambda Legal responded:

The defense argues Ravi was an 18-year-old kid who did something stupid — but not criminal.

“Boys will be boys is the answer we’ve heard for a very long time,” said Hayley Gorenberg, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a national organization that works for gay rights. She believes hate crime laws are needed, because otherwise, bullying, intimidation and even violence against sexual minorities will continue.

“All of this activity is important because it says we’re really examining the question and we’re really coming to grips with what’s going on with youth, with losing too many young people to suicide, losing too many to violence perpetrated against them by others,” Gorenberg said. “And it’s all part of a big picture we’ve got to confront.”

We will have more as the story develops.

Update 2 (Scottie Thomaston): Statement of Garden State Equality Chair Steven Goldstein, sent to us via email:

The fundamental question in this trial was whether Dharun Ravi would have similarly invaded the privacy of a roommate having intimate relations with someone of the opposite sex, as Ravi did to Tyler Clementi and M.B.

In our view, the answer is no – that Ravi would not have invaded the privacy of a straight roommate. In fact, the most compelling evidence in the case, Ravi’s text messages, indicated exactly that. The text messages demonstrated beyond any doubt that Ravi was deeply uncomfortable with Tyler’s being gay, and that Tyler’s suitor was a guy.

So are we “happy” with the verdict? “Happy” doesn’t seem like the right word given that Ravi has been convicted and will now face the appropriate societal consequences. “Happy” also seems too trivial a word when we remember that Tyler Clementi lost his life. But we do believe this verdict sends the important message that a “kids will be kids” defense is no excuse to bully another student.

Though Tyler Clementi has left us, the rest of Dharun Ravi’s life will help tell his life story. Ravi’s own lawyer basically portrayed him as a young man who engaged in jerky, insensitive behavior. Ravi can stay that course, or he can some good with his life by making amends and fighting for the justice and dignity of every individual, including people who are LGBT. That much is up to Ravi.

As for all of us, we must continue our focus on building a better world, one free of bullying of every student, so that a tragedy like this never happens again. That’s what New Jersey’s new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the country’s strongest anti-bullying law, is ultimately about.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with Tyler’s family and friends.

Update 3 (Scottie Thomaston): A full list of the charges and verdict can be found here.

29 Comments

  • 1. Jamie  |  March 16, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Who would have guessed. The straight guy that tormented the gay person goes (practically) free after tormenting the gay kid until he jumped off a bridge. Typical.

  • 2. Californiaesque  |  March 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

    I am surprised he didn't accept a plea bargain like his friend. A rational conclusion on his part was that filming sexual activity without consent and publicizing the video is going to lead to a conviction of invasion of privacy at a minimum. He's surely going to lose his student visa and be deported, but we'll never get Tyler Clementi back.

    I can't help but wonder whether Tyler's parents are questioning whether their rejection after Tyler came out contributed to his suicide. They will have to live with that, forever.

  • 3. Richard Lyon  |  March 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

    According to ABC he was in fact convicted on some of the counts of bias intimidation.
    http://abcnews.go.com/US/rutgers-trial-dharun-rav

  • 4. Christian  |  March 16, 2012 at 9:32 am

    There are multiple other news reports saying he was convicted of bias intimidation. I wouldn't be surprised if reporters were basically copying off each other and making mistakes to get the news out as fast as possible. Wonder what the real verdict is.

  • 5. Jacob  |  March 16, 2012 at 9:41 am

    There were more than two dozen charges. He was found guilty on some of them and acquitted on others, from what I can tell. Generally it doesn't look like he's getting off that light, IMHO.

  • 6. Jacob  |  March 16, 2012 at 9:42 am

    A full breakdown of the charges
    http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/03/ravi_web

  • 7. Kate  |  March 16, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Boys will be boys, and religionists will be religionists. Can hardly wait for NOM's response.

  • 8. Joe  |  March 16, 2012 at 10:07 am

    At this point, both boys have lost their lives. How many of us have said or done ugly thing to our own when we were self-hating and hiding in the closet? Personally, I see the actions of of a boy that might have been jealous at some level over his roomie having other suitors. If "we" could forgive him and not allow him to be a martyr for the haters, I see an opportunity for redemption.

  • 9. Kate  |  March 16, 2012 at 10:09 am

    And he gets an all-expenses-paid ticket home as his "get out of jail free card."

  • 10. Str8Grandmother  |  March 16, 2012 at 10:10 am

    This criminal trial in a most public way sends the message that open season towards sexual minorities using ridicule, intimidation, harassment, and violence is now closed.

    Ravi, did NOT get away with it.

    We turned a very public corner today.

    Rest in Peace Tyler Clementi, Rest in Peace.

  • 11. Joe  |  March 16, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Somewhat off topic, but pertinent imho: The legislators that are eroding women's rights need to be fought tooth and nail also. Any rights that women loose is also a wound in society.

  • 12. mk1  |  March 16, 2012 at 10:34 am

    This case sickens me. I'm of Indian heritage, my parents came here in the 50s. My siblings and I were born here. Back then there were very very few Indians here and we felt like outsiders. Maybe that's what taught us compassion and empathy? I don't know. I think my parents had a lot to do with it too. Dharun Ravi came across as a spoiled and entitled brat. He didn't seem to have any compassion or was capable of empathy at all. He grew up in this country so I think it would be twilight zone justice to deport him to India where he would forever live like an outsider and perhaps he'd understand even a little of how Tyler felt. I also think we have to teach kids social networking ethics. It's so easy to post stupid things on tumblr, twitter and facebook. These kids need to understand the consequences not only to themselves but to others. What used to be bullying on a small scale can now go global. Spoiled entitled kids like Dharun Ravi then get drunk on the power. My thoughts go out to Tyler Clementi's family, I hope this verdict brings them a measure of peace. I also hope that whatever happens to Dharun Ravi he leaves a wiser young man and works toward becoming a better human being than what he was/is now.

  • 13. Frisky1  |  March 16, 2012 at 10:41 am

    The year before Tyler's suicide, New Jersey's Governor who is basically the head of the state university where this happened, campaigned and vowed to make sure gay people were forever treated as second class citizens in the state. He then used this tragedy to make himself look tough on bullying by signing the most sweeping antibullying legislation in the country (nevermind that legislation had been sitting around for a year and it took Tyler's suicide to make it happen). And just last month, that same "tough on bullying" Governor affirmed his belief that its okay to let minorities and their civil rights be picked on at the ballot box. And people wonder where kids get these ideas.

  • 14. Str8Grandmother  |  March 16, 2012 at 11:26 am

    mk1- Amen!

  • 15. Californiaesque  |  March 16, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Fascinating article on the antecedents of the case: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/02/06/120

  • 16. Bob  |  March 16, 2012 at 11:54 am

    sign the petition to end violence against women

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    Click here to sign my petition denouncing Senate Republicans’ latest and most radical attempt yet to denigrate and endanger women.

    I’m so proud that you’ve stood up to defeat the Blunt Amendment and to ensure the voices of strong women like Sandra Fluke aren’t silenced. I’ll fight these dangerous, misogynistic attacks again and again — as many times as it takes.

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  • 17. Bob  |  March 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Yes the more cases like this get prosecuted, the more people get educated,,,,,

    I liked the post in quick hits about the Evangelical pastor I think his name was Scott Likely,,, who has charges pending under international law violations,, by promoting hatred ie. the kill the gays bill in Uganda,,,, hope someone follows that story,,,,,, it involves international laws,, protecting LGBT's

    Boys stop doing rude boy stuff, when there are consequences

  • 18. Bob  |  March 16, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2012/03/ugandan-gay-ri

  • 19. Bob  |  March 16, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    sorry it didn't link directlty to Kirsten's petition,,, but I do agree with Joe,,,, we are united in this cause of ending violence,,,, women's rights are on the chopping block along with LGBT rights,,,

    we have an alliance there,,,,,

  • 20. Carpool Cookie  |  March 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks. The New Yorker has always been the best, and their coverage of the Prop H8 trial was stellar, too.

  • 21. Carpool Cookie  |  March 16, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    The Los Angeles Times is reporting guilty on the hate crime aspect…and that he's facing 10 years, then deportation. http://discussions.latimes.com/20/lanews/la-na-nn

  • 22. Carpool Cookie  |  March 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Eh, he can seek redemption on his own time. Doesn't seem like the type who's interested, from what I've read.

  • 23. Kate  |  March 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Well, this is certainly an improvement. First then 10 years, THEN the deportation? Much better.

  • 24. Californiaesque  |  March 16, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Joe, I suspect the same. I think he used lots of inflated language to his friends, and the Twitter invitations, to distance himself from other people's potential suspicions about him.

  • 25. Carpool Cookie  |  March 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    The potential deportation is because he's studying here on some kind of visa, and if such a person is sentenced to more than 1 year for a crime, their status is reviewed.

  • 26. Kate  |  March 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Cookie, does that mean he could be deported without serving any time????

  • 27. Kathleen  |  March 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I read the New Yorker piece last month went it was published; I recommend it.

  • 28. BradK  |  March 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Forgiveness is hard to offer when it's not being asked for. This douchebag has shown absolutely no remorse or even acknowledgement that what he did was even slightly wrong. Closet case or not, Ravi is a narcissist and budding sociopath. Some time in prison with no personal privacy whatsoever might inspire him to learn to respect it in others.

  • 29. Bob  |  March 17, 2012 at 11:36 am

    and thanks to Faith in America,,,, for taking aim at the role religion played in Tyler's story
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/

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