College student who secretly taped and distributed his roommate’s sexual interactions with another man was found guilty of hate crimes, as well as invasion of privacy and other crimes.
According to the New York Times this morning, Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers University student who secretly videotaped his college roommate kissing another man, and then distributed it to other students via social media.
According to NYT.com:
Mr. Ravi’s roommate, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge three days after Mr. Ravi viewed him on the webcam. The case became a symbol of the struggles facing gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers and the problem ofcyberbullying in an era when laws governing hate crimes have not kept up with evolving technology.
Ravi was never charged with Clementi’s death, but there was always the question of whether sharing someone’s private acts, and then promoting them, could be considered a hate crime.
An earlier NYT.com article explains why Clementi was not charged with manslaughter:
Like most states with a cyberbullying statute, New Jersey’s focuses on primary and high school education, found in the part of the legal code devoted to education, not criminal acts. The privacy law in this case is used more often in high-tech peeping Tom cases involving hidden cameras in dressing rooms and bathrooms. State Senator Barbara Buono sponsored both pieces of legislation, and said the law had to adapt to new technologies. “No law is perfect,” she said. “No law can deter every and any instance of this kind of behavior. We’re going to try to do a better job.”
Still, the punishment must fit the crime, not the sense of outrage over it. While some have called for manslaughter charges in the Rutgers case, those are difficult to make stick. Reaching a guilty verdict would require that the suicide be viewed by a jury as foreseeable — a high hurdle in an age when most children report some degree of bullying.
What do you think? Should Ravi’s crimes have been considered strictly invasion of privacy, or does the charge of hate crime seem appropriate? Should Ravi have been charged with Clementi’s death?
AP Photo/John O’Boyle