Dharun Ravi has been sentenced 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.
Remember that Ravi had messaged his motivation in violating Tyler’s privacy: “I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” Remember that before Tyler took his life, Ravi messaged a friend: “Keep the gays away.” And remember that because Ravi had tampered with evidence, his post-facto messages to Tyler that he, Ravi, had no problem with gay people understandably lost their credibility to the jury.
Dharun Ravi wasn’t convicted of a bias crime unfairly. Dharun Ravi was convicted of a bias crime because his own words broadcast anti-gay animus to Tyler Clementi and the world.
Since the verdict, Dharun Ravi’s extraordinary lawyers and their media operation have deemphasized these facts, stunningly able to recast Ravi in the role of victim, scapegoat and even folk hero. But we remember the trial itself – a long and painstaking trial where Ravi had the best team possible, unlike many other defendants charged with serious crimes.
None of us not directly affected by this tragedy has reason to be happy. Tyler Clementi is no longer with us. Another man – M.B. – has seen this tragedy wreak havoc on his own life. The life of a third man, Dharun Ravi, will never be the same again. And Tyler’s family will forever have to live with the loss of their son, brother, nephew and cousin. May the family receive strength from their loving memories.
Those who have oppose giving Dharun Ravi jail time have asked, hasn’t he suffered enough? But we believe there’s another question: Has Dharun Ravi done enough? Has he done enough to use his place in history to speak out against student bullying and to make a positive impact on millions of lives across our state and nation?
Thus far, no.
Though Tyler Clementi has left us, the rest of Dharun Ravi’s life will help tell his life story. Ravi’s own lawyer portrayed him as a young man who engaged merely in jerky behavior. Ravi can stay that course, or he can do some good with his life by making amends and fighting for the justice and dignity of every individual, including people who are LGBT. That much is up to Ravi.
As for all of us, we must continue our focus on building a better world, one free of bullying of every student, so that a tragedy like this never happens again. That’s what New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the country’s strongest anti-bullying law, is ultimately about.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all whose lives have been changed by this tragedy.