Just what is the crime here?
Dharun Ravi, 20, formerly of Rutgers University, NJ, was convicted on all 15 counts brought against him: invasion of privacy, bias intimidation,lying to investigators, trying to influence a witness and tampering with evidence. From the NYTimes article:
"The case was a rare one in which almost none of the facts were in dispute. Mr. Ravi’s lawyers agreed that he had set up a webcam on his computer, and had then gone into a friend’s room and viewed Mr. Clementi kissing a man he met a few weeks earlier on a Web site for gay men. He sent Twitter and text messages urging others to watch when Mr. Clementi invited the man again two nights later, then deleted messages after Mr. Clementi killed himself."
"Mr. Ravi, 20, wearing a dark suit over his slight frame, sat expressionless as the jury forewoman read the verdict on the first count, of invasion of privacy. But he seemed surprised when she pronounced him guilty on the next charge, of bias intimidation. His eyes popped and he quickly turned his head from the jury."
"Mr. Ravi had rejected plea deals, because prosecutors would have required him to admit to bias intimidation. His lawyers said he simply did not believe he had committed a hate crime. They argued that he was “a kid” with little experience of homosexuality who had stumbled into a situation that scared him."
"Mr. Kaplan, the county prosecutor, rejected suggestions that Mr. Ravi would not have been on trial if Mr. Clementi had not killed himself. Even if he had not, he said, “under these facts, under this evidence, we would prosecute this case.”
I remember thinking "What a horrific case! What kind of values did the kid who spied grow up with?" when I first read about the suicide of Tyler Clementi a couple of years ago. Then, as I read this article in the New Yorker, I felt more ambivalent about the charges. Is this a hate crime?
What must have gone through Clementi's mind over the whole incident, that prompted him to commit suicide? He appears to have been at a most vulnerable stage, the start of 'coming out' to the world, having informed his parents just shortly before joining college, and starting to explore his sexuality. Was he punishing only Dharun for harassing him, or trying to punish his mother, whose initial rejection he sensed. From the New Yorker article by Iain Parker:
"When he described that experience to Cruz, Clementi reported that his father was “very accepting” of his news, but added, “Its a good thing dad is ok w/it or I would be in serious trouble / mom has basically completely rejected me.” He later added that she had been “very dismissive.”
Jane Clementi told me recently that Tyler announced his sexuality to her in a private, late-night conversation, which “snowballed” to cover his perceived shortage of friends and the uncertainty he had about his faith. At the end of their talk, she recalled, “he cried, I cried, we hugged.” They said that they loved each other. But, Jane Clementi said, “I must admit, other than being surprised, I felt betrayed.”
And, finally, after the whole sordid saga unravels, in digital footprints and reconstruction of the sequence of events leading to the discovery of Tyler Clementi's body in the Hudson, a sad footnote from his mother.
"On the night Jane Clementi learned that Tyler was gay, she said, “I told him not to hurt himself.” Not long before, a girl from his school had committed suicide. “We had talked about it briefly that summer, and for some reason that thought came to mind. And all I said was ‘Don’t hurt yourself,’ and he looked me right in the eye and he laughed, and said, ‘I would never do anything like that.’ ”