On the Verge of Serving His Jail Sentence, Dharun Ravi Apologizes

Dharun Ravi, who plans to start serving his 30-day jail sentence tomorrow, apologized yesterday for using a webcam to spy on his Rutgers University roommate as he kissed another man, gossiping about the incident on Twitter, and daring his followers to watch another encounter between the two men:

Last Monday, I was sentenced to 3 years probation, 300 hours of community service, a fine of more than $10,000.00, and 30 days in jail. Since the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office appealed that sentence, the sentence does not have to start until the appeal is decided. Nevertheless, I decided to accept and hopefully complete the sentence as soon as possible. It’s the only way I can go on with my life.

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.

At Ravi's sentencing last week, when he faced a possible prison term of up to 10 years, Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman scolded him for his "unimpressive" expressions of regret. "I heard this jury say 'guilty' 288 times—24 questions, 12 jurors—that's the multiplication," Berman said. "And I haven’t heard you apologize once." Ravi, who chose not to address the court, told the Newark Star-Ledger anything he said prior to sentencing would be dismissed as an insincere bid for leniency. Yesterday's statement may or may not be what Berman was looking for, but those who thought he let Ravi off too lightly are bound to view it as inadequate, especially since Ravi did not mention his roommate, Tyler Clementi, who killed himself a few days after the webcam incident for reasons that remain unclear. Although Ravi was never officially charged with contributing to Clementi's death, the aggressive strategy of his prosecutors, who inflated a minor, nonviolent offense into a felony punishable by a 10-year prison term, suggests they were trying to hold him responsible for his roommate's decision to jump off the George Washington Bridge.

Ravi's apology highlights what seems to be the main reason he rejected a plea deal with terms similar to the punishment he received after his trial (except for the month in jail): He did not see himself as a bigot, and so he did not want to admit that he spied on Clementi with the intent of intimidating him because of his sexual orientation. During his trial, the prosecution presented very little evidence that Ravi—who, judging from his tweets and instant messages, rarely had an unexpressed thought—harbored any particular animus against Clementi or gay people in general. "I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi," Berman said last week. "He had no reason to." Berman emphasized that "Ravi was not convicted of a hate crime; he was convicted of a bias crime." This distinction is pretty hazy, not only because the terms are generally used interchangeably but because Ravi was convicted of deliberately trying to intimidate Clementi through his Twitter comments and of doing so because Clementi was gay. That theory did not make much sense, not only because the prosecution failed to show that Ravi was motivated by anti-gay bias but also because he sought to conceal his spying from Clementi and (foolishly) viewed his tweets as private chatter among friends. As far as Ravi was concerned, he was talking about Clementi behind his back; once he realized that Clementi had seen his tweets, Ravi apologized to him (albeit in a pretty disingenuous, half-assed fashion). The point is not that Ravi's behavior was admirable but that it did not suggest an effort to intimidate Clementi.

In fact, after distinguishing between "hate crime" and "bias crime," Berman suggested that the prosecution had applied New Jersey's law, which heretofore has been used only in cases involving violence or threats of violence, in a manner that was not intended by the legislature. Reinforcing that point, he did not give Ravi any jail time for the bias crime convictions, locking him up instead for his efforts to conceal his actions from police, which included deleting incriminating tweets and trying to influence a witness.

Although Ravi decided to serve his jail sentence rather than wait for the appeals to be resolved, his lawyers plan to challenge his convictions on several grounds. With respect to the initial spying (as opposed to the subsequent tweets), for example, the jurors found Ravi guilty of a bias crime based not on his intent to intimidate but based on their supposition that Clementi felt intimidated. While New Jersey's law allowed them to take that route, this definition of bias intimidation seems vulnerable to a due process challenge, since it means someone can be convicted of a crime he did not know he was committing.

More generally, Ravi argues that a law aimed at violent gay bashers has been misused to punish what Berman described as the "colossal insensitivity" of an immature 18-year-old. I tend to agree. But in making this argument, Ravi implicitly concedes the basic premise of New Jersey's statute: that the criminal law should be used to brand people as bigots and punish them for their benighted beliefs.

Previous coverage of the case here.

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  • Tulpa the White||

    the basic premise of New Jersey's statute: that the criminal law should be used to brand people as bigots and punish them for their benighted beliefs.

    Actually, they're only punished if they act on those beliefs in a way that harms someone else, in this case, violating Clementi's privacy.

    I don't like the bias intimidation statute but it's not a thoughtcrime thing. It's an "enhancing the penalty for another criminal act" thing. You can hold whatever detestable beliefs you want as long as you don't actively harm someone.

  • John||

    That is not true. He wasn't just convicted for invasion of privacy. He was convicted of "intimidation". And yeah, you should have a big problem with this case.

  • Tulpa the White||

    But the intimidation conviction depends on a criminal act. Without a criminal act you can't get the conviction.

  • John||

    No it doesn't. The intimidation was the result of the tweets not the camera. Last I looked tweeting was not a criminal act.

    And think about this for a second. Even by your definition if he had recorded his straight roommate and done the same thing, there wouldn't be an intimidation crime here. Like it is somehow a worse invasion because his roommate was gay. That is a thought crime. It is also a complete bastardization of equal protection. If a straight person's privacy is victimized, it is less of a crime than if a gay person's privacy is violated. Why are gays entitled to more protection under the law?

  • Paul.||

    And think about this for a second. Even by your definition if he had recorded his straight roommate and done the same thing, there wouldn't be an intimidation crime here.

    If the chick were really ugly, I could see an intimidation case.

  • BarryD||

    REALLY ugly.

    Nah, not even then. Laughter is not a threat.

  • R C Dean||

    Ah, John, if you could only think this clearly about self-defense. ;)

  • Auric Demonocles||

    What is the extra penalty over the same crime committed for a different reason but a thoughtcrime penalty?

  • Tulpa the White||

    We have extra penalties for murder under certain conditions that exist wholly within the murderer's head.

  • John||

    but based on their supposition that Clementi felt intimidated

    That should scare the hell out of anyone reading it.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Not really. If they're gonna get you they're gonna get you and there ain't shit you can do about it.

  • John||

    And that fact is not scary?

  • Whiterun Guard||

    I'm just as scared of it as I am of being eaten by bears. Odds are about the same, and there's nothing I can do other than carry a gun and suicide pills.

  • fried wylie||

    How do you convince the bear to take the suicide pills?

  • nipplemancer||

    put it in a pickinick basket and label them hunny.

  • fried wylie||

    *added to Wylie's Bear Survival Manual (W-BSM-IV)*

  • BelowTheRim||

    You cannot videorecord your own room (One you pay rent to live in) in the state of New Jersey.

    That is my take on this whole thing. Ravi is getting hated on for no reason.

    Ravi didn't kill his former roomate, that bloke did it to himself. Ravi is simply collateral damage and a scapegoat for retarded prsecutors.

    This judge is a joke for letting this ever even see a courtroom. Shame on the state of New Jersey, shame on Rutgers.

  • ||

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Your use of the R-word is bias intimidation toward the mentally-handi-capapble, who don't use that word to describe themselves anymore.

  • Old Mexican||

    Berman emphasized that "Ravi was not convicted of a hate crime; he was convicted of a bias crime." This distinction is pretty hazy[...]


    Not to mention irrelevant. The idea that because the victim happens to belong to some arbitrary group the crime ipso facto becomes "special," only serves to demonstrate that the principle of "Rule of Law" no longer exists in this country.

  • John||

    Note that he could have spent months torturing his roommate because he had a stutter or dressed funny or was an Eagles fan. Yet a few tweets about his being gay becomes a felony.

  • Tulpa the White||

    This "arbitrary group" has been historically singled out for mistreatment. I don't like the statute either but I understand the motivation behind it.

  • John||

    So have a lot of groups. Eagles fans are treated horribly in Giants stadium. Do we need a hate crime to prevent that?

    More like, that "arbitrary group" has a lot of political clout in New Jersey.

    fixed it for you.

  • Rich||

    Eagles fans are treated horribly in Giants stadium. Do we need a hate crime to prevent that?

    Patience, John. We'll get around to it.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Eagles fans are treated horribly in Giants stadium.

    Yes, but they deserve it.

  • BarryD||

    They were born that way, though.

  • Tulpa the White||

    You're comparing fans of a team led by an historically overhyped dogfighting scumrat to people who like to stick their penes in strange places. Nice.

  • John||

    You are an idiot Tulpa. If I get the shit beat out of me by some crazy Giants fan, the punches hurt just as much as they would if he were doing it because I was gay.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Yeah, and if you get knocked unconscious by a grizzly in Idaho, it hurts just as much as being rufied in the woods by a former HR writer in a Sasquatch suit.

    That doesn't mean rape isn't a crime.

  • John||

    Sure it is. But it is not less of a crime depending on why the guy is raping me.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tulpa the White,

    This "arbitrary group" has been historically singled out for mistreatment.


    Collective avatars are irrelevant, Tulpa. Only INDIVIDUALS step on this good earth.

    I don't like the statute either but I understand the motivation behind it.


    Motives are irrelevant. Intentions are irrelevant. Only actions have consequences and only individuals act, not groups.

  • Tulpa the White||

    You've watched too many Borg episodes, dude. (as if that were possible)

  • Carston||

    No, he has just read a bunch of Mises, as I suggest all do.

  • Tulpa the White||

    RESISTANCE IS FEUDAL

  • Carston||

    Or futile...?

  • Tulpa the White||

    WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE ERROR

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tulpa the White,

    You've watched too many Borg episodes, dude


    Maybe. So, again: What makes the use of collective avatars a valid basis for argumentation? Only individuals step on this earth with their feet, not "societies" or "groups."

  • fried wylie||

    "I heard this jury say 'guilty' 288 times—24 questions, 12 jurors—that's the multiplication," Berman said. "And I haven’t heard you apologize once."

    Is that typical courtroom procedure, for the defendant to interrupt many if not all of the jury's pronouncements with apologies?

  • fried wylie||

    *any/many/all

  • Tulpa the White||

    There's also the fact that only the foreman of the jury actually says "guilty" publicly. So "the multiplication" is actually 24, not 288.

  • John||

    There is also the fact that a criminal defendant has a right to remain silent and a court cannot hold it against him. The judge in my view committed reversible error on sentencing right there. He doesn't have to apologize or say shit if he doesn't want to.

  • T||

    Especially since an apology could be construed as an admission of guilt. I'm not sorry for something I didn't do.

  • John||

    If he wins on appeal and gets a new trial, everything he said in court can be used against him. And certainly apologizing shows a consciousness of guilt.

  • Tulpa the White||

    He could argue that the apology was made under duress (which would be pretty fucking obvious, actually, since the judge was demanding it as a condition of a lighter sentence).

  • wareagle||

    come on, john...we are apology culture. Say damn near anything, do damn near anything, but if you later apologize - preferably with tears - that somehow makes it okay. The judge's statement only elevates the ludicrous to the ridiculous.

  • T||

    "I'm sorry you got offended" is my favorite.

  • fried wylie||

    I for one am glad that someone can be a judge without a firm grasp on court procedure or basic arithmetic.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Then again, maybe he was eavesdropping on the jury deliberations.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    COME SON OF JOR-EL, KNEEL BEFORE ZOD.

  • ||

    Berman emphasized that "Ravi was not convicted of a hate crime; he was convicted of a bias crime." This distinction is pretty hazy...

    It's all thoughtcrime.

  • Rich||

    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 sincerely regret being put in the position of having to recite this crap my lawyer cobbled together.

  • sunny black||

    Now we convict people for being douchebags and hurting other people's feelings.

  • ||

    As a 'fuck you' to the court and the prosecution, Ravi should have made a Tyrion Lannister-kind of apology/confession.

  • sunny black||

    The child that is the MSM and the PC Liberal intelligentsia would cry: "Make the brown man fly!"

  • alexdroog||

    That's what Mr. Ravi gets for being disharmonious, right?

  • GILMORE||

    Why should anyone with a plea of "not guilty" ever be expected to 'apologize'?

    The distinction I'm making is this = he could perfectly well express regret, remorse, sympathy for the family of the kid who killed himself, etc....

    ... but to actually *apologize* would be admitting he committed a crime which he acknowledges is *punishment worthy*, and request leniency based on his sincere guilt and sense of responsibility for the loss of the other person's life.

    unless I believed an actual crime had been committed, I'd tell the judge to go fuck himself.

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