They really threw the book at this kid.
Last September, Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi jumped off of the George Washington Bridge after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, surreptitiously recorded and then broadcast footage of Clementi hooking up in his room with another man.
Clementi’s death touched off an important national conversation about the bullying of gay teens and the need to reach out to them so they don’t feel so isolated. If anything good can come from Clementi’s suicide, it will be to make people commit to helping gays and lesbians as they struggle through adolescence and young adulthood in sometimes hostile communities.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear Tyler Clementi will be the only martyr for this cause. No, there are some people hellbent on making sure that another young life is effectively ruined, and some of those people work for the state of New Jersey.
Charges flowed out of the grand jury today for Clementi’s roommate and “tormentor,” Ravi. Based on the allegations in the indictment, you’d think Ravi had been running for the Republican nomination for President instead of acting like an 18-year-old college freshman…
I don’t think what Dharun Ravi did was right. He should be punished for his teenage hijinks. But these charges seem patently reactionary and ridiculous. The Associated Press reports:
A 15-count indictment was handed up Wednesday by a Middlesex County grand jury against Dharun Ravi, of Plainsboro, who had already faced invasion of privacy charges along with another student, Molly Wei.
The indictment charges Ravi with bias, invasion of privacy, witness and evidence tampering, and other charges stemming from the suicide of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi in September. The indictment said charges against Wei would not be presented to the grand jury “at this time.”
If these indictments slake the public’s thirst for the blood to avenge the suicide of Clementi, so be it. But I’ll just point out that no matter what you charge this kid with, college freshmen will still bully other college freshmen this fall. Charge this kid with the Kennedy assassination if you want, but right now there is some gay kid out there being called a “fairy” — probably by a fat kid who is grateful to be off the s**tlist for a moment. Are we going to go find and prosecute that kid too, or only if the gay kid kills himself?
Instead of focusing on how much pain we can cause Dharun Ravi, we should be focusing on how much help we can give to the next Tyler Clementi out there.
At least Molly Wei — who apparently was involved only insofar as her computer was being used by Ravi to broadcast Clementi’s hook-up — was spared from this round of vengeance. Sure, she’s still got the possibility of being indicted hanging over her head, but there’s at least a chance we can keep the Clementi-related body count at two.
There is still a chance for cooler heads to prevail. Grand jury indictments are just one step towards full prosecution. Hopefully the prosecutor and Ravi’s attorneys can come to some sort of deal that allows the prosecutor to show the mob its pound of flesh while letting Ravi have a chance at learning from his youthful indiscretion, instead of paying for it for the rest of his life.
Former student charged in Rutgers suicide case [MSNBC.com]