Does Tyler Clementi’s Suicide Prove Dharun Ravi Is a Bigot?

Citing my
on last week’s verdict in Dharun Ravi’s “bias
intimidation” trial, Kenneth Jost, Supreme Court editor at CQ
that “libertarian and conservative critics” (progressives
too) complain that hate crime statutes “infringe on freedom of
expression” (as well as freedom of conscience), although such
arguments have been rejected by the Supreme Court. Jost
says Ravi was “found guilty of
anti-gay conduct,” not anti-gay views. That is partly
because he does not seem to have harbored anti-gay views, as I
pointed out last week and will discuss further in my column
tomorrow. In any case, Jost argues that “Ravi was rightly held
responsible for making his roommate feel vulnerable to all the harm
that anti-gay prejudice can bring about” by “singling out Clementi
as different…because of his sexuality.” To my mind, this emphasis
on Clementi’s (presumed) feelings, rather than Ravi’s intent, is
one of the case’s most troubling aspects.

Jost notes that Ravi faces up to of 10 years in prison but seems
to think that would be excessive. Michelangelo Signorile says so
explicitly, while
the verdict:

I don’t want to see Ravi deported, nor getting a
ten-year prison term, the maximum sentence for his crimes.

But the bottom line is that Ravi was offered a plea deal in
which he would have avoided jail time as well as deportation.
Instead, he and his legal team put faith in what they thought was a
homophobic judicial system, one that would slough off hate crimes
against gays—as it had so many times in
the past—and once again validate the “gay
panic” defense, which in this case was dressed up as the “teen
prank” defense.

That’s one way of looking at it. Or you could say Ravi refused
to plead guilty, even though it would have kept him out of jail and
(probably) in the country, because he did not think he had
committed a hate crime. As Ravi’s father
Newark Star-Ledger columnist Mark Di Ionno
right before the verdict:

There is a principle here. My son was not raised to have hate in
his heart. We are not hateful

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