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Posts for May, 2012

Clementi Family Rejects Ravi’s Apology

Jim Burroway

May 31st, 2012

Remember that apology? The one where Dharun Ravi spent about a third of his words defending himself rather than actually apologizing? The one that didn’t mention Tyler Clementi or his family? Tyler’s family isn’t buying it:

“As to the so-called ‘apology,’ it was, of course, no apology at all, but a public relations piece produced by Mr. Ravi’s advisers only after Judge Berman scolded Mr. Ravi in open court for his failure to have expressed a word of remorse or apology,” they said in a statement.

“A sincere apology is personal. Many people convicted of crimes address the victims and their families in court. Mr. Ravi was given that opportunity but chose to say nothing. His press release did not mention Tyler or our family, and it included no words of sincere remorse, compassion or responsibility for the pain he caused.”

Tyler’s family has also expressed dissapointment over Ravi’s brief thrirty day sentence, which he behan serving today. In New Jersey, people sentenced to thirty day terms typically get ten days off for good behavior. Prosecuters are appealing the sentence.

Dharun Ravi Apologizes for “Childish Choices”

Jim Burroway

May 29th, 2012

Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student who was convicted in the spycam case, has issued an apology:

I accept responsibility for and regret my thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices that I made on September 19, 2010 and September 21, 2010. My behavior and actions, which at no time were motivated by hate, bigotry, prejudice or desire to hurt, humiliate or embarrass anyone, were nonetheless the wrong choices and decisions. I apologize to everyone affected by those choices.

Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein questions the timing of the apology:

We have mixed emotions, and so rather than take an organizational stance just yet, we have posited the question to our members on (the group’s) Facebook page to ask what they think,” Goldstein said.

Garden State Equality has said Ravi deserves more jail time than he received but “nowhere near” the maximum sentence he could have received.

“We have said that our hearts would be open to an apology had Ravi opened his heart up to us all,” Goldstein said. “He could have apologized in a way that would not have compromised his legal position. But he came across to many of us as unremorseful both before the trial and in engineered media appearances after the verdict.”

Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail, three years’ probation, 300 hours of community service, and nearly $11,000 in fines and restitution. He will begin serving his jail sentence on May 31. Because the state is appealing the sentence, it is automatically stayed. But he does have the right to go ahead and serve it to get it out of the way, as long as he waves any double jeopardy claim. He will appear in court tomorrow to formally waive that claim.

Dharun Ravi Sentenced to 30 Days in Jail

Jim Burroway

May 21st, 2012

 After emotional statements from Tyler Clementi’s parents and surviving brother, Rutgers University freshman Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years’ probation for invasion of privacy, witness tampering, tampering with evidence, and hindering prosecution. According to the New York Times:

Prosecutors appeared visibly angered by the sentence, and said they would appeal. Mr. Ravi’s family, meanwhile, hugged one another; just a few minutes earlier, his mother sobbed through a statement in which she implored the judge to go easy on her son. 

Ravi was also sentenced to 300 hours of community service, counseling about cyberbullying and LGBT issues, and a $$11,950 fine which will be donated to astate-sponsored group “dedicated to assisting victims of biased crimes.” Ravi also faces deportation back to India, but the judge said that he would add a letter to Ravi’s record recommending that immigration authorities decline to deport him.

Ravi was expected to address the court before sentencing, but he chose not to do so. Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman addressed Ravi before imposing the sentence:

“I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi,” Judge Glenn Berman told the court. “He had no reason to, but I do believe he acted out of colossal insensitivity.”

Ravi must report to Middlesex Adult Correctional Center on May 31 at 9 a.m. for his probationary sentence.

“I heard this jury say, ‘guilty’ 288 times–24 questions, 12 jurors. That’s the multiplication,” Berman said. “I haven’t heard you apologize once.”

During statements before sentencing, Clementi’s family asked the judge to impose an unspecified prison term. Joseph Clementi, Tyler’s father, noted that his son had checked Ravi’s Twitter page 37 times before jumping off the George Washington Bridge.He also accused Ravi of  “lack of remourse“:

Joseph Clementi said that Ravi decided his son “wasn’t deserving the respect of basic human decency” and “was below him” because Tyler Clementi was gay.

“He did it in a cold calculating manner and then he tried to cover it up,” the father, who had to pause to compose himself, said. Clementi’s mother Jane Clementi cried in the front row has her husband spoke.

He asked for a fair sentence “to serve as an appropriate deterrent,” but didn’t suggest a term.

According to court testimony, Ravi learned that Tyler was gay through internet searches before the school year started. Jane Clementi, Tyler’s mother, recalled that Ravi never bothered to speak with Tyler or his parents when they were moving him into his dorm room:

“He never even paused to acknowledge that Tyler was in the room,” she said. “He never stopped what he was doing, no greeting, no smile, no recognition, no nothing.”

…He never really knew Tyler, not the smart, kind, articulate, humble, funny, talented, caring, thoughtful, generous, trustworthy and dependable person Tyler was,” she said. “All he found out was that Tyler was gay.”

She called Ravi’s actions toward her son “arrogant and mean-spirited.”

Jane Clementi called Ravi’s actions “evil and malicious” and called for justice:

What I want is justice,” Jane Clementi declared before a packed courtroom in New Brunswick. “The court needs to show … this was not right and it was not acceptable behavior and it will not be tolerated.”

You can read statemens from Ravi’s parents here, and an impact statement from “M.B.,” Clementi’s visitor, here.

Update: Garden State Equality reacts:

Moments ago, Judge Berman decided to sentence Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail. We have been public in taking a position of balance: We opposed throwing the book at Dharun Ravi. We have spoken out against giving him the maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and against deporting him. That would have been vengeance beyond punishment and beyond sending a message to the rest of society.

But we have similarly rejected the other extreme that Ravi should have gotten no jail time at all, and today’s sentencing is closer to that extreme than the other. This was not merely a childhood prank gone awry. This was not a crime without bias.

Update: Dan Savage reacts:

Ten years and deportation—which the judge could’ve ordered—seemed excessive to me, like overkill and blame-shifting. I was one of the “gay rights advocates” quoted in a NYT piece this morning who expressed misgivings about the severity of the sentence that Ravi faced. But a 30 day sentence is far, fat too lenient—a slap on the wrist.

Verdicts Returned in Rutgers Spycam Suicide Case

Jim Burroway

March 16th, 2012

Dharun Ravi, 20, the Rutgers University student who was accused of setting up a spy-cam and inviting friends to watch his roommate, Tyler Clementi, share intimate moments with another man, was found guilty today of invasion privacy, but was found not guilty on most of the charges of bias intimidation. He was also found guilty on charges of witness tampering, tampering with evidence, and hindering prosecution. He faces up to ten years in prison, and he could be deported to his native India, even though he has been a legal resident in the U.S. since he was a very young child.

Clementi commited suicide in September, 2010 by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge, following two incidents in which Ravi set up a spycam in the students’ dorm room while Clementi was alone with another man. Clementi discovered Ravi’s Tweets inviting fellow student to watch. 

The jury returned its verdicts shortly before noon EDT today after three days of deliberation in a trial that lasted nearly four weeks.

UPDATE: Sentencing has been set for May 21. He will remain free until then.

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.”

From James to Tyler

Timothy Kincaid

February 1st, 2012

After Tyler Clementi was humiliated at school and after he stepped off the side of the George Washington Bridge, his story was everywhere. But it wasn’t really Tyler’s story, just a few moments at its end.

We didn’t really get to know Tyler. But now his older brother – his older gay brother – fills in the picture a little.

Out Magazine has published some of James’ thoughts composed as letters to Tyler.

(yes, Regan, you will need tissues)

Tyler Clementi’s Makeout Partner To Be Involuntarily Outed

Jim Burroway

October 21st, 2011

Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman has ruled that counsel for Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers student accused of invading the privacy of Tyler Clementi by broadcasting a tryst between Clementi and an unnamed male student, has a right to know the name of that male student. The student, known only as M.B., was seen kissing Clementi in Clementi’s dorm room when Ravi broadcast the private moment over the internet via a web cam. The invasion of that privacy precipitated Clementi’s suicide. Now “M.B.,” who is described as living in “continuous and overwhelming” fear that his identity will become public, will also see his privacy further invaded:

Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman had delayed a September order to release the name of Clementi’s companion, known only as M.B. in court papers, in order to give M.B. a chance to make a last-minute plea for anonymity. But M.B.’s personal, written request to keep his identity secret and his attorney’s legal arguments didn’t convince Berman to reverse his earlier ruling.

He ordered prosecutors to turn over M.B.’s identity to Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers student facing up to 10 years in prison for allegedly using a webcam to spy on the unnamed man and Clementi in his dorm room.

“I have to balance M.B.’s right to privacy and Mr. Ravi’s right to a defense,” Berman said. “I thought I did that on Sept. 9 and I feel I did the right thing … The order continues and stands.”

Neither Clementi nor “M.B.” put themselves into an illegal situation. They both engaged in a private moment, and they both had the right to expect that moment to remain private. What’s more, it appears that there may be repurcussions that go far beyond discovering who kissed Clementi:

Before he died, Clementi told friends his companion, M.B., was in his 20s and not comfortable with others knowing he is gay. [Emphasis mine]

The concern now is that an innocent man who is not openly gay may find his name leaked to the press or, worse, called by the defense team to the stand to testify.

Plea Deal Reached In Tyler Clementi Case

Jim Burroway

May 7th, 2011
Dharun Ravi (left), and Molly Wei (right)

Dharun Ravi (left), and Molly Wei (right)

Molly Wei appeared in court Friday to request admittance into a pretrial probationary program that could lead to the dismissal of all charges against her in exchange for her testimony against Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers student who reportedly broadcast a live video feed of Tyler Clementi’s sexual encounter with another man in his dorm room. That incident, along with another attempt a few days later, led to Clementi’s suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

As part of the plea deal, Wei agreed to counseling and to do 300 hours of community service, in addition to testifying against Ravi. According to prosecutors, Ravi and Wei watched Clementi through a video cam from Wei’s laptop computer in her dorm room.

Clementi’s parents agreed to the plea arrangement. According to Joe Clementi, Tyler’s father, her actions were “substantially different in their nature and their extent than the actions of Tyler’s former roommate.”If Wei completes the three year program, then two counts of invasion of privacy will be dismissed. Otherwise, she faces trial and up to three years’ imprisonment.

Two weeks ago, Ravi was charged with fifteen felony count, including invasion of privacy and attempted invasion of privacy, bias crimes, tampering with evidence and witness tampering. He faces up to ten years in prison.

Tyler Clementi

When Clementi committed suicide last September, his death was among a rash of suicides that sparked a national conversation about the difficulties LGBT youth experience. That attention became the genesis for the It Gets Better project, in which people all over the world upload videos of encouragement for young people who face bullying, taunts, and other difficulties with their peers and/or families. There is also a companion book, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, which includes essays  from celebrities, ordinary people and teens who have posted videos of encouragement, as well as additional contributors who have not posted videos to the site. Kindle and audiobook editions are also available.

Tyler Clementi’s Roommate Earns 15 Indictments

Jim Burroway

April 20th, 2011

A New Jersey prosecutor’s office announced today that a 15-count indictment has been handed down against Dharun Ravi, the Rutger’s university roommate of Tyler Clementi, who secretly distributed a live video on the internet of Clementi having an intimate encounter with another man just days before Clementi committed suicide.

The charges against Ravi include two counts each of invasion of privacy and attempted invasion of privacy, two counts of second-degree bias crimes and two counts of third degree bias crimes, three counts each of tampering with evidence and hindering his own apprehension, and a single count of witness tampering.

Another student, Molly Wei, was also charged with invasion of privacy, but her case has not yet been presented to the grand jury. Charges against her are pending and the case remains active.

Tyler Clementi’s suicide garnered nearly immediate national attention. A rash of suicides taking place at that same time became the impetus behind the It Gets Better project and other efforts to implement anti-bullying programs in schools around the country. The It Gets Better project, in which ordinary people are encouraged to upload videos reaching out to LGBT youth to encourage them to hang in there because “it gets better,”  has announced a new hardcover book by project co-founders Dan Savage and his partner, Terry Miller. The book, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, collects essays  from celebrities, ordinary people and teens who have posted videos of encouragement, as well as additional contributors who have not posted videos to the site. Kindle and audiobook editions are also available.

Pop Quiz: Who Wrote this?

Jim Burroway

October 6th, 2010

The death of University student Tyler Clementi might have been properly mourned if it were not for the massive rallies and aggressive news coverage that altered the nature of the situation. The truth is that an 18-year-old boy killed himself – he was a student just like the rest of us, someone just trying to receive an education. Yet people’s relentless agendas took his death and turned it into a cause based on false pretenses.

Was it:

a) Focus On the Family’s Candi Cushman?
b) Amerians for Truth’s Peter LaBarbera?
c) Mission America’s Linda Harvey?
d) The editorial staff at the Rutgers University student newspaper, Daily Targum?

The answer is after the jump…

Tyler Clementi On Violin

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2010

A small glimpse of what was lost:

YouTube Preview Image

It doesn’t have to end this way. This straight guy has a message: it gets better:

YouTube Preview Image

You can contribute to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project with your message of support here.

ABC News: New Jersey Prosecuters Considering Hate Crime Charges

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2010

ABC’s Good Morning America is reporting that New Jersey prosecutors investigating Tyler Clementi’s suicide are considering adding hate crime charges against Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, who have been charged with violating Tyler’s privacy after livestreaming video of Tyler’s sexual encounter with another male without his knowledge.

According to ABC News, New Jersey’s state law against “bias intimidation” makes it a criminal offense to invade someone’s privacy because of sexual orientation. The word “because” may be the sticking point. The publicly released information available so far can easily point to this crime being motivated by other factors. Motivations of personal animus toward Tyler fit the evidence just as easily. So does the motivation to simply pull an idiotic and appalling “prank.”

Either way, invasions of privacy are felony offenses. While references to Tyler’s sexuality appear on tweets that Ravi posted to his Twitter account, none of them use anti-gay epithets or indicate overt hostility toward Tyler’s sexuality — at least what we know so far of Ravi’s postings so far. Demonstrating that Tyler was singled out specifically because of his sexuality in a court of law may prove difficult, unless prosecutors have found further evidence that they haven’t made public yet.

Body Pulled From Hudson Identified As Tyler Clementi

Jim Burroway

September 30th, 2010

Tyler ClementiThe New York Medical Examiner’s office has confirmed that a body that was pulled from the Hudson River above the George Washington Bridge is that of Tyler Clementi:

Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York City Medical Examiner’s office, said the death was ruled a suicide, with the cause listed as drowning, with blunt impact injuries.

Tyler, an eitheen-year-old Rutgers freshman, jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his sexual encounter with another male student was livestreamed on the Internet without his knowledge by his roommate. Police have charged the roommate, Dharan Ravi, and another freshman, Molly Wei with several counts of violating Tyler’s privacy. They face up to five years’ imprisonment for each count.

Tyler Clementi May Have Reached Out To Gay Website For Advice Before Committing Suicide

Jim Burroway

September 30th, 2010

Tyler Clementi

Gawker has found some posts from a forum at justusboys.com (registration required) written by someone with the handle of “cit2mo,” who describes a situation remarkably similar to Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who committed suicide after his roommate surreptitiously videoed him having sex with another man and broadcasted it on the Internet. The emails are dated September 21 through the early morning of September 22, the day Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

In the first email on the morning of September 21, “cit2mo” writes:

so the other night I had a guy over. I talked to my roommate that afternoon and he had said it would be fine w/him. I checked his twitter today. he tweeted that I was using the room (which is obnoxious enough), AND that he went into somebody else’s room and remotely turned on his webcam and saw me makeing out with a guy. given the angle of the webcam I can be confident that that was all he could have seen.

A couple hours later, “cit2mo” comes back again:

and so I feel like it was “look at what a fag my roommate is”
–other people have commented on his profile with things like “how did you manage to go back in there?” are you okay?”

and the fact that the people he was with saw my making out with a guy as the scandal whereas i mean come on…he was SPYING ON ME….do they see nothing wrong with this?

In this post, “cit2mo” said that he decided to fill out a room change request form, but noted that changes were not guaranteed.  Later that evening “cit2mo” responds to a suggesting that the spying could be against school policy. “cit2mo confirms that he has found the policy and that anyone who violates it could be expelled. But he takes little comfort in that:

the only things is…there are too many ‘could’s ….the fact that he didn’t ACTUALLY record me (to my knowledge) and the fact that the shool really prolly won’t du much of anything…

“cit2mo” then says he will speak to his Residential Adviser. It appears at this time he hasn’t actually spoken to anyone at the university yet. A few hours later, “cit2mo” posts again:

so I wanted to have the guy over again.

I texted roomie around 7 asking for the room later tonight and he said it was fine.

when I got back to the room I instantly noticed he had turned the webcam toward my bed. And he had posted online again….saying….”anyone want a free show just video chat me tonight”…or something similar to that….

soooo after that…..

I ran to the nearest RA and set this thing in motion…..
we’ll see what happens……

I haven’t even seen my roommate since sunday when i was asking for the room the first time…and him doing it gain just set me off….so talking to him just didn’t seem like an option….

meanwhile I turned off and unplugged his computer, went crazt looking for the other hidden cams….and then had a great time.

All of this corresponds roughly to the tweets from Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, who with Molly Wei, have been arrested and charged with invasion of privacy.

“cit2mo’s” last post is early on the morning of September 22, after he had spoken to the RA:

he seemed to take it seriously…
he asked me to email him a written paragraph about what exactly happened…
I emailed it to him, and to two people above him….

That was early Wednesday morning. “cit2mo’s” posts seemed very calm and rational.  Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge at about 9:00 that evening. If “cit2mo” is Tyler — and it seems very likely — then that still leaves an almost fifteen hour gap where we don’t know what happened. Did he receive a message from the university that he interpreted as hopeless? Did the tauntings increase to an unbearable scale? I imagine police investigators will be looking into all of these possibilities and more.

Tyler Clementi’s Circle of Abusers Widen

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2010

Tyler Clementi

The Daily Beast sheds some more light into the harassment that Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi likely suffered in the days leading to his suicide. Tyler committed suicide after his roommate broadcast video over the Internet of him having a sexual encounter with another man. Tyler’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, announced those broadcasts via Twitter:

Three days before Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge, known by police as “surefire” for suicides, Ravi had tweeted, “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” Although the feed has been deleted, caches turned up the roll. On Sept. 22, Ravi tweeted, “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again.” That was the night Clementi was last heard from.

While Ravi and Wei purged their Twitter feeds, their friends did not. Ravi’s friend from high school and fellow Rutgers student Nikhil Mashettiwar tweeted to his friend on Sept. 20, “we should get our roommates together.” The day after Clementi apparently killed himself, Mashettiwar tweeted, “Gay kid in class: i hate when i like have to repeat myself.” Mashettiwar did not respond to requests for comment about his tweets and deleted his Twitter feed within an hour of being contacted.

How many others were in on the “joke”? Ravi’s Twitter feed reportedly had 150 followers.

Ravi and Molly Wei have been charged with invasion of privacy and face up to five years’ imprisonment. Meanwhile, the body of a red-headed young man wearing an orange watch has been recovered from the Hudson River this afternoon. Authorities believe it to be Tyler’s body, but are awaiting confirmation from the New York Medical Examiner.

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