In September of 2010, Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington bridge. While no one can know what was going through his mind on the day he killed himself, many vehemently believe that it was the actions of his roommate, Dharun Ravi, that drove him to do so. Yesterday, Dharun was sentenced in a New Jersey supreme court to 30 days in prison for invading his roommate's privacy by using his webcam to expose Tyler having sex with another man in their room. Many activists are outraged by the sentencing, not satisfied with the 30 day sentence when Dharun faced up to ten years for his crime.
Dharun faced 15 different counts, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. The odds were against him, especially since he never apologized once, and turned down two deals. Not a native to the United States, having emigrated from India as a child, Dharun also faced deportation. Although the deportation still looms, Dharun avoided years of jail time and only received sentencing for a month in jail on the counts of invasion of privacy and tampering with evidence.
It goes without saying that Dharun seems to have come out of the trial relatively unscathed in the face of what he could have received. This could be due in part to the emotional atmosphere of the trial. While the judge has not publicly given reason for his apparent leniency, we can look to the testimony of Dharun's family as a source for the verdict. As the Times told it: “The media misconstrued the facts to the public and misconceptions were formed,” she said, telling how she watched helplessly as her son sank into despair after he was charged and dropped out of Rutgers, barely eating or leaving the house. “All I could do was hug him and cry.”
Tyler's mother, however, also had words, as did his father. His brother made a critical point: “Dharun never bothered to care about the harm he was doing to my brother’s heart and mind. My family has never heard an apology, an acknowledgment of any wrongdoing.” Why was Dharun so tacit when it came to his remorse? While Dharun has said he was sorry "about" the situation, he never made a direct apology for Tyler's death because: "[Then there would be] a verdict out there that says I hate gays. The jury has decided they know what is going on in my mind; they can tell you what you think." This verdict most definitely does not confirm that Dharun acted out of any sort of hate, but it does not clear him of all responsibility, either. Still, Dharun's attorney plans to appeal these charges anyway.
As a Rutgers student, I have to say I'm glad that the ordeal is, for the most part, over, but I know that it will never end for Clementi's family. For months after his suicide, the press plagued our New Brunswick campus with reporters, constantly asking students for their opinions, even forcing the neighbors of Clementi to move out of their dormitory in order to relax back into a normal student lifestyle. One of my friends was even personally vilified after telling the press that Dharun was "a nice guy." I feel that we've all learned a lesson in sensitivity and civility from what's transpired since September of 2010, but I'm not sure how much justice the judge's ruling does or does not do. How do you feel about the sentencing?
(Photos courtesy of The New York Times.)