March 16, 2012
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.