Dharun Ravi was not charged with fraud, larceny or assault. His “crime” was being an asshole, and because the unintended victim of his boorish behavior was gay, he could spend the next 10 years in prison.
What the jury had to decide, and what set off debate outside as well as inside the courtroom, was what Mr. Ravi and Mr. Clementi were thinking.
Had Mr. Ravi set up the webcam because he had a pretty good idea that he would see Mr. Clementi in an intimate moment? Had he targeted Mr. Clementi and the man he was with because they were gay? And had Mr. Clementi been in fear?
Without Mr. Clementi to speak for himself, that last question was perhaps the most difficult to determine, and jurors struggled with it.
If Clementi had been with a woman do you think Ravi would have been prosecuted? Maybe for invasion of privacy, but Clementi’s sexuality made it easier for prosecutors. Apparently it was the “hate,” and the target of the bias, that raised Ravi’s voyeurism to the level of a crime.
And was hate even a component? There was no evidence that Ravi was a raging homophobe. In fact, on the day Clementi killed himself, Ravi, who was unaware there had been a suicide, texted Clementi and with an apology: “I’ve known you were gay and I have no problem with it.”
Obviously Clementi was devastated when he discovered his sexual encounter with another man had been captured via webcam. But blaming Ravi for his death is beyond unfair.
Proponents have seized upon the jury’s verdict as a strike against bullying, but we’re talking college students here. Where does it end?