Most of us have heard this sad saga by now. Mr. Ravi arrives as a computer-whiz freshman at Rutgers University, meets his quiet, introverted roommate in Mr. Clementi and later remotely records Clementi’s intimate moments with another man on his webcam. He did this not once, but twice; he posted these videos to his public Twitter feed.
Days later, Tyler Clementi wrote in his last Facebook post, “Jumping off GW Bridge, sorry.”
Mr. Ravi’s sentence Monday morning represents a somewhat surprising conclusion to a case that has captured media attention for some 20 months. Indeed, Judge Glenn Berman’s verdict — 30 days in county jail — was immediately contested by both sides as they sought its appeal.
“I’ve disenchanted both sides,” Berman admitted after both the prosecution and defense moved to stay the verdict.
Many think 30 days is just not enough. This is someone’s life here — someone whose life was lost, whose family must suffer, whose friends have been hurt. This was no innocent prank.
True. But we must remember that Mr. Ravi was not charged with Tyler’s death. What he did was, in the judge’s words, “colossally ignorant,” but he did not push Tyler off the bridge — at least not in the eyes of the law, and rightfully so. The burden of Tyler’s death is purely a moral one, and one that should weigh very heavily on Mr. Ravi for the rest of his life.
The truth is that Mr. Ravi is also now irreparably damaged. He has been living in exile for the last two years. Work, at least work he is qualified for, is surely out of reach for the rest of his life. His mother sobbed during the trial about how her son does not eat, does not sleep, is not the teenager he should be. And every mother, and perhaps every son, should empathize with her sorrow.
But does Mr. Ravi feel this emotional burden? Does he really feel remorse? The judge was very quick to point out in his verdict that though Mr. Ravi apologized to the Clementis in passing in his pre-sentencing paperwork, he made no mention of the man the court refers to as “M. B.,” Clementi’s partner, whose name was redacted for the trial. The usually stoic Ravi cried yesterday in the courtroom — not for his freshman year roommate, but for his mother, whose letter was punctuated by wails and sobs.
And the defense made Dharun the victim. He’s been living in exile. He’s not been able to lead a normal life. He was just 18 when he did this! It was just a prank. Dharun’s reputation is forever tarnished. Dharun won’t be able to find work. Dharun won’t be able to pursue the American Dream his parents had for him when they immigrated with two suitcases and nothing else. Dharun this, Dharun that. Dharun a victim, just another victim.
In many ways, he is. But in many ways he should know far better than to play this card, even if it’s just a lawyer’s strategy to get a lighter sentence (a successful one, as it turns out).
Because we now live in a world where after Mr. Ravi has finished passing through the scrutiny of the judicial system — which is no sure thing given both sides’ indignation regarding the verdict — he must pass through the scrutiny of the American people, who will judge for themselves this man’s character through the video and blog commentary that has already flooded the Internet after his sentencing.
At least one judge will be looking, above all else, to see whether or not Tyler Clementi’s death has taken a moral toll on Dharun Ravi.
Which is why it was very disappointing to hear in the courtroom, again and again, that Dharun too was a victim, that he too had his life destroyed, that he was improperly judged by the feeding frenzy that is the news media, that he does not deserve the scorn that this nation has for him right now.
Yes, Dharun is a victim. But his situation is self-inflicted. And if we can call him a victim, then I do not know what word we can use to describe Tyler or his family.
Monday morning, the judge offered Mr. Ravi an opportunity to address the court. The cameras were still rolling, of course. The judge actually offered Mr. Ravi an opportunity to address the nation.
He could have stood up and offered simple words of apology to everyone he has hurt: the Clementis, his classmates at Rutgers, the witnesses he tampered with and, above all, his family. Instead, he shook his head no.
The nation is still waiting to hear Dharun Ravi apologize for what he has done. Given his apparent lack of remorse, it’s likely their verdict will be much harsher than 30 days in county jail.
Want to join the court of public opinion? Contact Ed at edngai “at” stanford “dot” edu.