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Koch

Koch

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Ed Koch on the Rutgers webcam case
Ed Koch on the Rutgers webcam case

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Published by: Jay Jochnowitz Journalist on May 30, 2012
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05/30/2012

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An Unjust Verdict
By Ed KochA terrible tragedy took place at RutgersUniversity when two eighteen-year-old menwere randomly selected by the University toshare a bedroom at a student dormitory. Oneof the young men, Dharum Ravi, was animmigrant from India; the other, TylerClementi, an Italian-American.Ravi, suspecting that Clementi was gay,entered into a plan with a female student –later given immunity for her testimony – tovideotape his roommate’s activities at nightwhen Clementi had a male visitor to thebedroom he shared with Ravi, having arrangedwith Ravi to have the room for himself theevening of September 19, 2010 and again onSeptember 21 for a number of hours. Ravialerted fellow students to watch the Webcamvideo he took on September 21, and sureenough, the video showed Clementi in a sexualembrace with a male partner. Clementi learnedof the taping and on September 22, 2010committed suicide by jumping off the GeorgeWashington Bridge, posting on Facebook fromhis cellphone, “Jumping off the gw bridge,sorry.” His suicide note on his computer was
 
not released to the public.Ravi was not tried for the death of Clementi, but was tried and convicted, the NewYork Times editorial of May 22, 2012 reported,for “invasion of privacy, witness tampering andmultiple counts of a hate crime called biasintimidation. The jury found that Mr. Ravi knewhis conduct could make Tyler Clementi, hisroommate, feel targeted because he was gay.” Ravi was found guilty on March 16, 2012 andsentenced on May 21, 2012.In sentencing Ravi, Judge Glenn Bermanof the Superior court in Middlesex County, NewJersey, began his remarks by saying “I heardthis jury say guilty 288 times – 24 questions,12 jurors, that’s the multiplication” and “Ihaven’t heard you apologize once.” Listeningto those remarks undoubtedly caused some inthe courtroom to think the court was going tosentence Ravi to the max of 10 years. But no,the judge went on to say, “I do not believe hehated Tyler Clementi. I do believe he acted outof colossal insensitivity.The jury thought itwas a hate crime. The judge has the right toreject a jury’s verdict if he believes therewasn’t sufficient evidence to support it. He didnot do that. Putting aside the hate crimeaspect, what about the crime of witness
 
tampering which Ravi was convicted of?Apparently, that is not a serious crime in NewJersey. If it were, wouldn’t Ravi have beensentenced to serious time just for that onecrime?What did the judge mete out aspunishment? Thirty days in jail, three years of probation, 300 hours of community service,counseling about cyber-bullying and alternatelifestyles and about $11,000 in fees.I say not enough. Tyler Clementi isdead. It is true that Ravi was not charged withhis death, but he was charged with witnesstampering and tampering with physicalevidence and hindering his apprehension andprosecution. Those are serious matters. Surelyat least a year in prison of the ten availableunder the law would have provided greater justice and closure for Clementi’s parents.Hopefully, on appeal, although AppellateCourts do not like to substitute their judgmenton sentencing for that of the trial judge, theAppellate Judges will set aside the lowercourt’s sentencing decision and send the caseback for re-sentencing in accordance with theirdirection.

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