The Thought Crimes of Dharun Ravi

Recently, a young man of Indian origin was found guilty of most of the charges against him (the full verdict is available here).  The former Rutgers student was accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate’s intimate encounters with an older man in his dorm room.  A few days later, the roommate, Tyler Clementi, later committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, unleashing a firestorm of criticism against supposed homophobia and bullying.  Ravi now faces a possible ten-year prison sentence, and possible deportation.

A second student, Molly Wei was “let off” on the condition that she would undergo re-education counseling, do community service, and testify against Ravi.  One wonders what was involved in Wei’s testimony: did she testify honestly and openly?  Did she read from a prepared script?  Did she merely say what was required of her as part of the “deal” so that she could avoid prosecution?

In theory, Ravi was convicted for invading privacy, but the hate-crime charge adds to the prison sentence.  This isn’t really news to anyone who’s been around for a while: if two straight white men get into a fight, the police might break up the fight and fine each individual a certain amount.  However, if  one person happens to be a straight white man, and the other anything else, charges get trumped up and inevitably the jury will almost always be silently stacked to convict.  In this case, the judge and jury followed their scripts to the letter.

Apparently this isn’t enough for some leftists.  The New Yorker reported that online commentary called for lifetime imprisonment for Ravi and Wei.  Still others wanted more and opined that Ravi should have received the death penalty.  Of course, the same people frequently criticize laws in foreign country which they consider oppressive or unfair.  For instance, when Akmal Sheikh (a ‘Briton,’ the media claimed, despite the fact that Sheikh was born in Pakistan and lived in the United States for most of his life) was convicted of drug smuggling in China, there was a wide call for his release.  The fact that they believe someone worthy of the death penalty for being a “homophobe” is beyond hypocritical.

But, Clementi’s death was not a factor in the trial.  Moreover, there is little evidence that points in the direction that Ravi’s actions were meant to be “homophobic”;  Ravi stated in the trial that he was worried about theft.  At worst, what Ravi did was immature and insensitive, but it may have been an honest attempt to procure evidence in the event that his property was stolen.  Given the ridiculous “bias intimidation” charge, and the glee apparently displayed by various homosexualist lobbying groups, I think it’s safe to assume the charges would have amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist had Clementi not been gay or had he not committed suicide.  In fact, it’s very likely that if it had been the other way around and Clementi had taped Ravi with an older woman, no charges would have been pressed at all.  At most, the charge of invading privacy might have stuck, but none of the more tenuous charges of “evidence tampering” (for deleting Twitter and facebook posts), and certainly not a hate crime.

As we saw in the Sandra Fluke-Rush Limbaugh incident, it is often not what is said, or what actions are done, but who the perpetrator is, and who the victim is.  Because Clementi was gay, and homosexuals are a sacred, protected class, the media made a martyr of Clementi and a heretic out of Ravi, on the account that Ravi might not have been totally accepting of homosexual behavior.  Essentially they have punished Ravi because some of his views might have been unpopular among certain social circles, and not for the act itself.  Right now the leftists and homosexualist lobby wants to make an example of Ravi to further political ends.

John Derbyshire opined the following regarding the case:

These prosecutors are a disgrace to their profession. The Dharun Ravi trial is a travesty of justice. The actual charges are “invasion of privacy” (in Ravi’s own dorm room!), “bias intimidation,” which basically means having Bad Thoughts, and evidence/witness tampering – deleting tweets and such, really just b.s. what-the-heck charges, added on the off-chance that the court might take them seriously. For this the Middlesex County prosecutors want ten years.

As reprehensible as the media wishes to make Ravi’s actions seem, they are far from being deserving of a punishment.  The disproportionate punishment assigned Ravi is a dangerous precedent for anyone.  The point to learn here is that crime is crime.  An invasion of privacy should be treated as such, and should not have special terms attached because the victim belongs to a favored group.

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