Dharun Ravi Convicted and Guilty of Bias Intimidation, Could Face Deportation

This is a bit late in coming, but as many of you know, Dharun Ravi, whom we blogged about in our comparison with American Pie, was convicted on all 15 counts, which includes “bias intimidation.” In other words, they found Dharun Ravi guilty of a hate crime. They’re not only talking about 5 to 10 years in prison, they’re talking about deporting him to his native India–Ravi is a green card holder.

In my original post, I said that we needed to show some restraint. In this case, I think the verdict of bias intimidation is wrong, and I don’t believe people are showing restraint in the aftermath. I think they’re using Dharun Ravi as a scapegoat. Tragic as Clementi’s death is, I just don’t see a pattern of hatred towards gays, an intent to bully or intimidate Clementi, or even evidence that Clementi was targeted because he was gay. Check out this excellent New Yorker article that describes the complexities in this case: The Story of a Suicide. If you look at the way they talk/tweet/IM, in most cases it seems like childish kidding. Anyone with younger Facebook friends will recognize the style–it’s typical.

Now I’m not saying that Dharun Ravi is innocent. He spied on his roommate and is guilty of invading Clementi’s privacy. He tampered with evidence and tried to guide a witness. But given the evidence (and I wasn’t at the trial), it seems hard to argue that he’s guilty of a hate crime. Here’s the legal definition of bias intimidation according to New Jersey law:

a. Bias Intimidation. A person is guilty of the crime of bias intimidation if he commits, attempts to commit, conspires with another to commit, or threatens the immediate commission of an offense specified in chapters 11 through 18 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes; N.J.S.2C:33-4; N.J.S.2C:39-3; N.J.S.2C:39-4 or N.J.S.2C:39-5,
(1) with a purpose to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, religion, gender, handicap, sexual orientation, or ethnicity; or
(2) knowing that the conduct constituting the offense would cause an individual or group of individuals to be intimidated because of race, color, religion, gender, handicap, sexual orientation, or ethnicity; or
(3) under circumstances that caused any victim of the underlying offense to be intimidated and the victim, considering the manner in which the offense was committed, reasonably believed either that (a) the offense was committed with a purpose to intimidate the victim or any person or entity in whose welfare the victim is interested because of race, color, religion, gender, handicap, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, or (b) the victim or the victim’s property was selected to be the target of the offense because of the victim’s race, color, religion, gender, handicap, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.

According to one article, the “bias intimidation” issue hinged on the thought that Clementi “reasonably believed” that hit was done with a purpose of intimidating him or that the victim believed he was selected to be the target because he was (in this case) gay. I don’t see that. I think Clementi was targeted because he was Ravi’s roommate, and because Ravi is immature. Sepia Mutiny has a good post about this: Free Dharun Ravi: Fairness vs. Justice. The blogger writes:

“Ravi is an immature, upper middle class kid and a “casual homophobe” (more on that term later) but he is not a perpetrator of a hate crime. To consider him more than marginally complicit in the death of Tyler Clementi hurts two groups: victims of true hate crimes and the mental health community.”

I have to agree. They ought to come down hard on Ravi because of the webcam trick, but he’s not guilty of a hate crime. As much as I feel Ravi deserves punishment, I think the court decision went a bit far in this case.

14 thoughts on “Dharun Ravi Convicted and Guilty of Bias Intimidation, Could Face Deportation

  1. While I agree with your analysis. I also feel that people need to understand that certain actions can have very dire ramifications. Just like with bullying, you never know the state of mind the victim is in and all you need to say is one little thing that will be the straw that breaks the camels back and spin what you might think is harmless fun completely out of control.
    As someone who survived physical bullying and ended up in a leg brace, I know that the girls who did what they did never even considered what would or could happen to me.

    It’s just something about having fun at someone else’s expense and for Ravi, the “joke” went extremely far.

    It is very sad that this boy died and I think Ravi is being made to pay for his suicide. Punishing Ravi will not bring him back but it will definitely give someone else some pause before they start some cyber stalking or invade another person’s privacy or something else. There is not justice here….and so all this leaves a horrid taste in one’s mouth.

  2. but how do you reconcile your stance here with your stance about the military hazing?

  3. but how do you reconcile your stance here with your stance about the military hazing?

    Thank you, majo! That was the issue I brought up several times on other websites.

  4. The Danny Chen case was constant and ongoing, and it was physical and verbal with the intent to cause him harm. In this case, Ravi and Clementi were cordial with one another and never had a harsh word. One of them (imo) is a prank gone wrong, the other was an attack.

  5. If you read all the facts, you can come to no other conclusion that Ravi was a homophobic punk who rolled the dice on a trial and lost. I am looking forward to his incarceration where he may lern a thing or two about m2m bonding. Then as a felon his deportation to India. This will set an example to cyber bullies everywhere. It also gives new meaning to the term “outsourcing”!

  6. I really don’t think Ravi would have done and said the same things if his roommate was straight and was just hooking up w/ a girl. He would not have invited ppl to a viewing party.

    Also, the lawyers were going to give him a deal prior to trial where he would have avoided jail, but he didn’t take it. So he took his chance….maybe he was a bit over confident that he wouldn’t be found guilty?

  7. Linda:

    That’s true (both statements). The questions then are:

    a) did he intend to “intimidate” the victim

    and

    b) was it solely because Clementi was gay. In other words, if Clementi were a quiet, withdrawn, skinny, short straight man, would Ravi have simply found another reason to make fun of him.

    About the plea, here’s the rub–his immigration status was permanent resident, which means that he can be deported if he has a criminal record. If he took the plea, he could be deported; if he won, he’d be safe. This is (ironically) related to our last topic about the Dream Act.

    Greg,

    That is disturbing if that’s what you’re suggesting. I mean, really, do you think that’s what he should be sentenced to? Rape?

  8. Pingback: Trial by media and social media | bigWOWO

  9. So Ravi was given his sentence not even 10 minutes ago: 30 days, 3 years probation 300 hours in community service and $10,000 in donation/fees to an organization. That is just the outline.

    I have to admit that my original thoughts about cyber-bullying was: Are you kidding? That’s not ‘real’ bullying. Real bullying takes place in the physical world. It’s constantly being called out of your named, feeling threaten every time you cross paths with someone who you know hates your guts and very being, being purposefully alienated for stupid/non-existent reasons, it’s having your assigned seat in the cafeteria taken by a girl who has no problems beating your ass, getting spit on or having your speech mocked. (These are just my experiences from middle school and elementary school; crazy enough though I was a bit of a bully in elementary school, though no on really believes when I tell them I was. “But you’re so quiet and nice.”)

    And I would be lying if I said that I, 100 percent, take cyber-bullying to be just as bad as ‘real/physical world ‘ bullying. Now this could be the fact that I’m a loner and socially challenged meaning anything that is done in person to me hurts much more than something said online. But I’m learning. It’s a process for me to take cyber-bullying completely serious all the time and not part of time.

    After learning that Ravi could face up to 10 years. I began to think, “He’s young, about a year younger than me, and I feel awkward knowing that 10 years of his productivity could be spent behind bars. He didn’t push Clemmenti off the bridge, Ravi is not a murderer but he’s not innocent either. He did have a hand in Clemmenti’s death just not a direct cause. It was a suicide after all. A stupid move gone wrong, horribly wrong.”

    With that said, I am a bit torn with the sentencing. I’m trying to convince myself that the jail time and probation time are good enough. But in reality 30 days was not what I was expecting. I actually was hoping for him to just be deported feeling that it was better than the 10 years of prison time he was facing. If he got anything over a year I would actually call ‘foul play’ because then, in my opinion, Ravi would look like a murderer rather than the straw that broke the camel’s back*.

    *When I think of suicide (I actually use to be a suicidal thinker) and those who commit it, I generally think that it is an accumulation of events/happenings that constantly plague the person over a period of time (usually years).

  10. Do you think he deserves deportation, Anna? He’s basically American in terms of culture. I wasn’t at the trial, but the more I look into this, I think his sentence is just about right–although I’m still not convinced it was a bias crime, given the personality that has since come out in that New Yorker article.

    In any case, we’ll eventually find out about the deportation. It’s a whole different department.

  11. @ BigWoWo

    If it was between 10 years or some other very lengthy stay in prison then yeah, I would prefer for him to be just deported. At least then he would have a better chance of rebuilding his life. I was not taking in consideration of his cultural identity per se but the length of prison stay and comparing it to just being deported. I had a feeling, when they first said Ravi was facing 10 years, that they were going to throw the book at him.

    I didn’t feel that Ravi was being bias myself but having a big ‘brain fart.’

    So to answer your question, No. I don’t think he deserves to be deported.

  12. Ah, that makes sense. And yes, I’d probably agree–deportation might be better than 10 years or some other really long sentence. :)

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