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Opening Statements Given in Dahrum Ravi Trial

Jim Burroway

February 24th, 2012

The prosecution and defense teams gave their opening statements this morning in the trial of Dahrum Ravi, who is charged with invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest in connection with a series of events which led to the suicide of Tyler Cleminti, Ravi’s Rutgers University dormmate. In opening statements, Ravi’s defense lawyer Steven Altman said that what Ravi did was “stupid” but not criminal:

“You’re going to see evidence that Dahrun is not homophobic, not anti-gay. Evidence that he never recorded, never broadcast images of his roommate. He never harassed his roommate, or ridiculed or spoke negatively about his roommate. He thought he was nice guy and had no problem with him,” Altman said.

Instead, Altman said, the jury should keep in mind that Ravi was a “boy” who was 18 at the time and who occasionally acted immaturely when discussing his roommate’s perceived sexuality among his friends.

“He might be stupid at times, but he’s 18 years old and he’s certainly not criminal,” Altman said.

Ravi is charged with setting up a webcam on his computer and inviting friends via Twitter to watch his roommate, Tyler Clementi, spending an intimate evening with another male via iChat. Ravi had modified his settings on iChat so that anyone could automatically activate the webcam by contacting Ravi through the video chat application without “waking” the computer screen. Clementi committed suicide three days after the first incident and one day after the second attempt. Prosecutors accuse Ravi of invading Clementi’s privacy and exposing him to public ridicule:

“He’s seeking to brand Tyler as different from everybody else, as gay, to set him up for contempt and ridicule,” she said. “These acts were not a prank, not an accident, not a mistake, and certainly were not good natured… These acts were purposeful, intentional, planned. I would suggest to you beyond that they were mean spirited, malicious, and criminal.”

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Regan DuCasse
February 24th, 2012 | LINK

Our society is exceptionally nosy and at the same time, dishonest about how they deal with expressions of sexuality.

Hets are always claiming they don’t declare THEIR sexuality, and that gay people would be just fine if they didn’t advertise what they do in the bedroom.

This is at once dismissive of CONSTANT bombardment of the pride hets have in their sexuality, at forgetful and in denial of how little privacy gay people have the luxury of.
Someone is ALWAYS invested in invasive questions, tactics and outing someone they suspect of as being gay.

Some college kids make fun of their virginal counterparts. Pranks involve some kind of outing as a virgin, and sometimes are trying to hook up their friends with someone to relieve them of this status.

Of course, the consequences of being revealed as a virgin or one’s sexual orientation will be very different for a het kid, than they are for a gay kid.

Ravi’s behavior did have the taint of maliciousness to it, because the consequences of Tyler’s orientation were different than they would be had he been with a girl.
I doubt Ravi would have bothered with setting up the webcam for an op sex encounter. Nobody would really care.
But he DID want some impact on Tyler and in a negative way.

He might not have anticipated that Tyler would commit suicide, but he did set up Tyler for humiliation and possibly more difficulty since this was his freshman year and he was still adjusting to being at college on his own.
Usually a delicate time of emotional changes for someone as young as Tyler.
Teens are allowed an awful lot of leeway for being mean to one another. It’s considered some kind of needful rite of passage that the victim of such hostile assault is supposed to accept as normal and growth inducing.

Yet the perpetrators of such assault are treated with kid gloves and never understanding the gravity of their actions. Which they might commit over their lifetimes.
Ravi was old enough to know better, and deserves the full brunt of what’s appropriate.
He can just MAN UP and own what he did and never do it again.
Tyler, has no such options anymore to grow and enjoy his own life.

Blake
February 24th, 2012 | LINK

Ravi is stupid. 1. for not taking the plea. 2. for hiring that attorney (what a terrible opening argument) 3. for what he did.

I don’t think ‘I didn’t understand the consequences of what I was doing’ is a particular stellar defense & when there is evidence of witness & information tampering & when you’re ‘best friend’ has already flipped for the prosecution.

Plus, as the New Yorker pointed out, he’s not very reliable, likeable, or humble.

andrew
February 24th, 2012 | LINK

A few things:

Tyler wasn’t pushed, he jumped.

I’m not saying this to be insensitive, but there is an element of selfishness to suicide that puts this in a different category from traditional assault or other means through which someone ends up dead. Especially in a university environment where suicide is a recognized risk for youths away from their emotional support systems for the first time – that’s why there are extensive resources available to freshmen, especially vis a vis guidance and mental wellness. It’s unclear to me whether Tyler availed himself of these resources — and I have to ask if not, why not. If it’s a choice between going to authorities, or even transferring schools and filing a lawsuit, or jumping off a bridge, 2 of those sound perfectly reasonable, while 1 sounds like there were other issues outside the defendant’s control at play.

In short, Tyler is a victim, but he’s also one of the decision makers that resulted in his death (as opposed to his humiliation).

None of this lets Ravi off the hook for the prank.

What he did was vile, aggressive, planned, and cruel. He deserves more than a slap on the wrist. I think it goes without question that his university career — something to which he has dedicated over 80% of his life until now — is over, which, by the way, is a pretty steep price to pay for what he *actually* did (as opposed to the ultimate consequences, which he did not foresee), *especially* given his age. If not, it should be — Rutgers has an obligation to protect their students and set standards of conduct.

If convicted, I think some jail time is appropriate, but perhaps community service is a better use of his time, and a better opportunity for him to make amends to society (and learn how not to be a douchebag a$$hole in the process).

His youth can be taken into account at sentencing, but I really don’t think that his age is relevent when it comes to what he’s been accused of here. And yes, what he did from a violation of privacy standpoint is absolutely criminal, and others have gone to prison for comparable offenses (think landlords who put spycams in their tenants’ bathrooms).

Charles
February 24th, 2012 | LINK

Ravi is entitled to a trial to determine the facts in the case and the punishment for what he did. I am willing to let the system of justice to do its job.

andrew
February 24th, 2012 | LINK

Charles, I was somewhat concerned that I was jumping the gun a bit (I decided that my “if convicted” was a big enough fig leaf to hide behind, perhaps not).

I’ve certainly (loudly) echoed your sentiments in the past, and I would be remiss not to mention that. In this case, the facts don’t appear to be in dispute, only the circumstances and intentions, so I’m a little more comfortable speaking the way I did rather than strictly resisting commentary…

Snowman
February 25th, 2012 | LINK

I have a feeling prison isn’t going to improve this idiot’s attitude much, but I bet it will make him think he ought not to have done that.

@ Regan: As a straight dude who happens to like his girls on the bigger side, I totally agree people in this country need to learn to mind their own damn business. My credo is my own sex life is screwed up enough I don’t need to know about anybody elses…

…and it’s a rare person who I WANT to know about theirs either.

For one thing I bet if this country wasn’t so crazy obssessed with sex, people wouldn’t make such a big deal about gays either.

But when I’ve had five year old kids who could barely say the words ask me what erectile disfunction is just from the ads on the TV (and this was 10 years ago) its safe to say Americans will not butt out of each others sex lives anytime soon.

It’d fix alot of problems if they did, I bet.

John
February 25th, 2012 | LINK

Ravi is not a boy. Legally he is an adult. If he wasn’t a college student, nobody would be referring to him as a boy. It will be interesting to see what evidence his attorney has to prove that Ravi had nothing to do with broadcasting a video feed of his roommate having sex with another man.

Regan DuCasse
February 25th, 2012 | LINK

@Andrew: I reiterate that a person’s emotional and spiritual challenges can be acute for college freshman. And let’s be honest, a gay kid or one suspected of it, tends to ATTRACT tormenters. A person who SPECIFICALLY wants to do some kind of damage to that person’s sense of security and trust.
Tyler may not yet have developed any meaningful and important networks to overcome the very profound emotions that made him suicidal.
In other words: Ravi was fucking with him to hurt him right at a time when Tyler would have suffered the most pain.

A college student who was part of a marching band, received a MUCH harsher pummeling than known in the history of hazing for that fraternity.
Others agree that it went on much longer, and harder and ultimately, it cost the pledge his LIFE.
And because his potential frat brothers KNEW he was gay or suspected it, he was singled out for an especially aggressive beating.
In other words: deliberately inflicting pain and damage above and beyond because the person on the receiving end was gay.

Ravi’s attorney can protest until the world ends that Ravi wasn’t homophobic and that isn’t what drove his motive to humiliate Tyler.
And that Ravi wasn’t known to be anti gay.

Well, we here anti gay political action committees and their supporters say that all the time. They are just defending marriage, and children and families.
No, they aren’t anti gay, they are FOR tradition.
Well, Ravi and his cohort didn’t do this to any HET students.
And weren’t motivated to.
They didn’t single out any OTHER freshman or try to out them or invade the privacy of anyone who wasn’t gay.
Tyler’s decision to end his own life was COERCED.
And even if that final act was in his hands, his misery was calculated and mocked. So yeah, he WAS pushed, emotionally, if not physically.

Straight guys know they like to fuck with gay guys. If not physically, then definitely emotionally, politically,religiously, socially and economically. And Ravi doesn’t even have the guts to own that’s EXACTLY what he MEANT to do with Tyler as he was at his most insecure and vulnerable.

Pat
February 25th, 2012 | LINK

I’m not sure we’ll ever find out what the exact motivation and intent of Ravi’s acts. It’s pretty clear that the intent did include humiliation. If not, then Ravi shld be put away for being too stupid to participate in civilized society. We don’t know what was intent beyond humiliation, and I don’t think the prosecution can prove that Ravi wanted Clementi to kill himself.

I assume the actions are criminal, and since a death did result because of these actions, Ravi may receive a jail sentence. Even assuming Ravi didn’t intend Clementi to kill himself, and I agree that Clementi ultimately made the decision to kill himself, all I can say is if I was in Ravi’s shoes, it wouldn’t matter. My life would be ruined for engaging in such despicable actions, and I would have a hard time living with myself.

b
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

yo andrew,

I remember my first semester of college vividly; it was a time when I was so scared and afraid someone would find out that I, a guy, was thinking about guys in the same desirous manner that almost EVERY other guy in my social environment was thinking about girls. And I KNEW that there were LGBT organizations and events at my school; I even took a few steps into one such event one evening. But there was so much FEAR, so much SHAME in my mind and in my heart over me being there in the presence of other LGBTs, and so two times I barely entered the room before quickly exiting. Ultimately my anxiety was stronger than my curiosity and I bolted, terrifed and just praying that I hadn’t been seen going in there by one of my old high school friends(about ten of us went there after graduation and we knew each other well).

I am telling this story because it is not just a matter of saying that there are resources to help freshmen out with such issues so why didn’t Tyler utilize them. After I fled from that LGBT student event, it took another three months before I sought help, and that was when SUICIDE had begun to present itself in my thoughts. I was in a MOST precarious state at that time, not wanting to admit the truth to myself or have anyone else in my life know, so I KNOW that if it had been me in Tyler’s shoes, it could very well have played out in EXACTLY the same way. The difference between he and I is that I was too terrified to even TALK to another guy like that when I was struggling, so for all we know had Ravi not done this, Tyler might have felt compelled to seek help after this encounter. Maybe realizing his desires by acting on them could’ve been a first step.

And although this kind of misery is something that no heterosexual person will EVER experience, I would THINK that Ravi would have participated in university orientation sessions that tell incoming freshmen about sex and STDs, and I’ve found that in such sessions usually there’s also a skit or something that explains that just because you may be straight doesn’t mean everybody else is too. Thus in my opinion, since Ravi knew good and well that he had a gay roommate, chalking up his willfully invasive acts against Tyler to stupidity just doesn’t fly. To me, you don’t take the time to plan out and execute this kind of act against another human being without deliberate forethought and knowledge that this kind of thing is going to HURT them. That Ravi would do this shows me that even if his intent at the time was that it was “just a joke”, he was more than willing to go ahead and get a kick out of compromising his roommate’s privacy as a means to HIS (Ravi’s) desired end. Ravi was FINE with doing this. Him not thinking “oh what if Tyler kills himself” to me just does NOT fly. “Oh, I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t know”, c’mon that is such BULL. You, Ravi, you most certainly WERE thinking, you saw your gay roommate and that made it ok in your mind to make him a target of humiliation and degradation. Youth does not an immature dumbass make. That’s just my opinion.

andrew
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

Regan – as a really short guy, let me also tell you that guys like to fuck with really short guys, too. Bullies will target anyone they perceive as vulnerable. (Since I’m busy posting on hate crimes on another thread, I’d like to point out that short guys don’t get any support in hate crimes legislation, even though we are targeted specifically due to our physicality).

My point is, everyone has vulnerabilities, and life is really honestly hard. Harder for gay teens, without question.

But I really don’t think that Ravi had any clue that his antics were life and death. In fact, I would argue that the person with the control of making them so was person who chose to take his life.

If he was that vulnerable, there has to be question as to whether other contributing factors played into this. Would he have jumped anyway? Perhaps. Tragically, we’ll never know.

But there is a tendency to santify the dead and demonize bullies. There’s some legitimacy to some of this.

But I have to maintain that, unlike public schools for minors, there is a freedom in university: to just stop going. To quit, to complain, to tell his parents. To tell his brother, to whom he was already out. To fight. To take his roommates laptop and hurl it to the ground rather than himself. To do many things. To be put in that position is outrageous and should be punished harshly, and for that reason, I am pleased to see that the prosecutor has taken the charges against Ravi dead seriously.

But to kill oneself. That’s a decision that Tyler made for himself.

Andrew
February 29th, 2012 | LINK

Folks, again, I want to stress that my comments aren’t intended to be insensitive, but to cut against the natural inclination to paint suicide victims as angels solely reacting to external forces.

It’s a tough message, but if you have ever had someone in your life commit suicide, you have some understanding of the anger, betrayal, sadness, and loss it leaves in the survivors. It can be a tremendously selfish thing to do, even when it looks like the only plausible choice to the suffering individual.

In that context, however, I’d like to remind everyone that Trevor’s Project does great work. If you can, donate.

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

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