Shocking Justice: Rutgers Roommate Cyber- Bully Gets Sweetheart 30 Days
By Amy Beth Arkawy
NEWS JUNKIE POSTMay 21, 2012 at 11:40 am
It’s hard for a judge to disappoint both the prosecution and the defense during sentencing. But Judge Glenn Berman, who presided over the high-profile Rutgers roommate cyber-spying trial, did just that.
“I heard this jury say, ‘guilty’ 288 times–24 questions, 12 jurors. That’s the multiplication. I haven’t heard you apologize once,” Berman said before sentencing Dahrun Ravi to 30 days in jail. The sentence also includes three years probation, 300 hours of community service and over $11,000 in fines, 10K of which will be donated to an anti-bias organization.
The defense, led by the bumbling Steven Altman, who said he knew he was “climbing a mountain” seeking a leniency, asked for a stay of the sweetheart sentence. Come on, guy! I know you were hoping for no time behind bars for your client, but with 15 felony convictions, that had to seem unlikely. For their part prosecutors, led by Julia McClure also asked for a stay on behalf of the state. The state, blind-sided by the short jail sentence, is seeking a prison term, the maximum of which could be ten years. The judge denied the stays. Barring action from an appellate court, Ravi will report to jail on May 31.
The sentence tossed a shocking lid on an emotional morning, filled with victim impact statements from Tyler Clementi’s father, mother and brother as well as a letter from “M.B.,” Clementi’s fellow victim of the notorious spy-camming. Both Ravi’s parents also spoke passionately on behalf of leniency for their son. But Ravi, who was expected to address the court,remained mum.
Had Ravi, who was only 18 and, like his roommate Tyler Clementi, in the first few weeks of his freshman year at Rutgers, when the notorious web cam spying incidents (described by his defense team repeatedly as juvenile pranks) occurred, publicly apologized such a sentence might sit better with the Clementi family as well as gay rights advocates, and the community at large.
Quick trigger Twitter fingers display a mixed bag of reactions. Some suggest Ravi got away with murder. Others call the sentencing “compassionate.”
My reaction is somewhere down the middle. It’s strange because before viewing the sentencing I was hoping for compassion, playing it out in my dramatist’s mind as coming from the Clementis. But that’s not how it unfolded. The Clementis, while not vengeful, certainly asked for accountability and justice. Without offering a term, I’m sure they didn’t have a meager 30 day jail stint in mind, when the spoke of “consequences.”
Listening to all the pre-sentencing arguments and letters, as well as the judge’s early harsh words, I believed a prison sentence was, in fact, warranted; hoped it would be on the short end, say 1-3 years. I don’t believe incarceration is the answer to every offense or offender, and I believe, despite the prosecution’s protestations to the contrary, had Tyler Clementi not committed suicide ( Ravi was not implicated or charged with his death) this case would never have come before the court. It would have been handled internally at Rutgers. Still, Ravi refused a plea deal that would have avoided any incarceration. He turned it down and put the Clementi family ( as well as his own) through an excruciating ordeal. In his self-serving newspaper and “20/20″ interviews, Ravi said he couldn’t take the deal because he couldn’t admit to any bias. Such an admission, he maintained, would be lying.
I’m not so sure Ravi understands the insidious ways cultural prejudices can seep in and take up residence in one’s heart and mind.
If Ravi truly learns any hard lessons those insights will most likely be uncovered as he completes the mandated anti-bias counseling program that his probation sentence includes. He is a young man, and surely does not need to be locked away–or deported ( both “M.B.” in his letter and later Judge Berman, indicated influence, on his behalf, with immigration.) And he doesn’t deserve to be the poster boy for anti-gay bullying.
I wish some measure of closure for the Clementis, though as Judge Berman said, that will be hard to ever achieve. I know they’ve started the Tyler Clementi Foundation and hope the work they do there will grant them some solace as it helps countless people fight bias, find refuge and lead healthy and joyous lives. And I hope Dahrun Ravi cultivates the empathy that eluded him as a teenager and grows into a generous and productive adult. Thanks to Judge Berman’s generosity, he’ll have an early jump-start on his second chance.
Please follow Amy Beth Arkawy on Twitter.
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