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Monday, March 12, 2012

Is It Fair to Punish Dharun Ravi Because Tyler Clementi Died?

This is a tragic but legally fascinating case. Ravi violated the privacy of homosexual Clementi by secretly filming a Clementi gay sex encounter. Clementi was so distraught that he committed suicide. There are several issues going on here. Is Ravi in any way responsible for Clementi's suicide? If so, what's the crime? Ravi isn't being charged with killing Clementi but he is being charged with a hate crime that carries a sentence of up to ten years. We've always had mean and nasty people who do mean and nasty things but the Internet provides a venue to permanently blast embarrassing and private matters into cyberspace for all eternity (Anthony Weiner's weiner and Andrew Breitbart's role in making a photo of Weiner's junk go viral comes to mind). While the government violates our right to privacy all day long, the right to privacy is anything but legally clear.
... Ravi is on trial for what all of us feel from time to time: prejudice against those who are different from us....Why? Because while Ravi is on trial for invasion of privacy, the more serious offense with which he is charged is “bias intimidation,” a hate crime. If all Ravi did was film Clementi in bed with another man, it’s a minor offense. If he did so in order to harass Clementi for being gay, he could get 10 years in prison. As the trial has unfolded, there appears to be general agreement that Ravi is a bit of a jerk...Of course, this trial is taking place only because shortly after Ravi recorded him, Clementi killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. That’s why the case has attracted so much attention: Clementi was one in a series of gay-teen suicides brought on by bullying and intimidation. Now both Clementi and Ravi are symbols. And yet, is Ravi really responsible for Clementi’s suicide?"

Read the rest here 
The Daily Beast

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