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Bias Intimidation Verdict in the Ravi Trial

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6 Responses

  1. Ann Bartow says:

    Danielle, you referred to this as a “borderline case” in your NPR interview. Your post focuses on the the “bias intimidation” aspect of the case, but Ravi was also convicted of invasion of privacy, evidence tampering and witness tampering. Interviews with the jurors after the trial was over suggest that Ravi’s actions after the suicide to cover up what he did were pretty important. What would a “better” case look like to you?

  2. Jonathan Evans says:

    Surely the problem here is not one of application of the law but of its framing, and of the sentencing tariff attached to it. A gay man myself, I find this kind of hate crime legislation, with its ad hoc laundry list of victim attributes, highly questionable if not entirely objectionable. One’s gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. should not afford one uniquely ‘protected status’ but merely equal status, consideration and respect under existing law. Nomatter how well motivated, to insist otherwise is counter productive: it is patronising, divisive, engenders resentments and encourages the rush to hyperbole and demonisation so regrettably evident in the Ravi case. Still, the law being as it is, would this case be less problematic if the mandatory tariff were not so excessively punitive? Leaving aside the likely prejudicial effect of Clementi’s suicide in this case, would short or non custodial sentences for relatively minor infractions ameliorate the chilling effect Danielle foresees in her closing paragraph? I feel obliged to note that, as stated in the New Yorker article cited, the legal process was flexible enough to offer Ravi a second deal of 600 hours community service and no jail time which he (and/or his lawyer) declined on the grounds that he was innocent when, according to the letter of the law and the evidence at court, he clearly was not. But regardless: instead of using hate crime legislation to ramp up hysteria and inflict disproportionate punishment via the questionable (in this case at least) ascription of bias as motive, would it not be more reasonable to address all instances of harrassment, intimidation, abuse, assault, etc., regardless of at whom they are directed, through the firm, equitable and proprotionate application of preexisting law?

  3. Ann Bartow says:

    Jonathan, can you tell me what the punishment is and why it is disproportionate? I am in China at present and my internet access is really sketchy. I haven’t been able to find anything about the actual sentencing happening.

    I am inclined to think the reason the criminal charges were brought in this case are more related to Tyler’s suicide than his sexual orientation. Only when a bullying victim commits suicide does anyone seem to take the bullying seriously, and even then the legal response tends to be pretty confusing, see e.g. the Lori Drew case.

  4. Heidi R. Anderson says:

    Yes, I see some backlash coming, especially if the result is spun as follows…A young man is going to be deported and/or jailed because he shared truthful information about what happened in his own home with a bunch of other people.

  5. Andrea Saren says:

    Jonathan,
    Dharun Ravi would have had to plead guilty to bias intimidation for that plea deal.

    All other invasion of privacy cases in New Jersey have been dealt with by pre trial intervention (PTI) and a fine or community service. Does that change anyone’s view of this? The ONLY way to get to a prison term is with the bias intimidation charges. Egregious cases of invasion of privacy get PTI. In this case, all that was seen was 2 seconds of seeing 2 men kissing fully clothed and the webcam was turned off. I would say that complied with the law.

    If Dharun Ravi had seen his very antisocial roommate buying a gun from the strange man Tyler brought to the room, would he be a hero? (Yes, Tyler Clementi was extremely antisocial. He did not talk to Dharun or anyone in the dorm; wore headphones all the time; did not make eye contact. And was revealed at trial to be obsessively reading Dharun’s twitter feed.)

  6. Andrea Saren says:

    Ann,
    The hindering and evidence tampering charges – The Supreme Court of NJ has to say something about these, too, as well as the constitutionality of the bias law.

    The hindering relates to deleting text and twitter messages — are we not allowed to delete them in New Jersey? Kids must delete a couple dozen text messages every day. The twitter message was a draft, deleted, then rewritten and posted shortly thereafter. All were before there was any police investigation.

    Moreover, how does it hinder anyone when they are all available from the service provider? They never disappear.

    The tampering was similar to this scenario: You and I are in a car; I am driving and I run a red light; I say to you, “It was yellow, wasn’t it?” This “tampering” was Dharun saying to the girl, “You told them it wasn’t deliberate, didn’t you?” (Or similar) Obviously, thats open to interpretation vis a vis whether Dharun thought it was deliberate that he saw Tyler and the man from the internet sex site kissing.

    Not to mention whether kissing fully clothed is “sexual contact” as the Invasion of Privacy law may require. The NJ Supreme Court threw out an Invasion of Privacy conviction about a decade ago for the very reason that it did not the letter of the law and that was an egregious case.