It was a trial that lasted two weeks. While it didn't have the sizzle or the pop that the Casey Anthony trial or Conrad Murray trial had, it never the less got the attention of Americans everywhere and those that would be sending their children off to college next fall.
The trial took place in New Jersey and involved a couple of students at Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey. It involved a pair of roommates, Dharun Ravi and Tyler Clementi. Ravi is Indian while Clementi was white. Ravi was straight while Clementi was gay.
The fact that Clementi, who was a biology major at the Big East school and played the violin, was bothersome to Ravi, who culture frowned upon homosexuality. Clementi even told Ravi that he was gay. So instead of dealing with the problem like a rational human being, Ravi did the unthinkable.
He spied on his roommate and invaded his privacy. He set up a camera in their room and on two occasions, september 19 and September 21 of 2010, he spied on Clementi, who had a male visitor in their room. Clementi would later jump off the George Washington Bridge in New York City September 22 of that same year.
In the trial that ended two weeks ago this Friday, Ravi was found guilty of of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering and hindering arrest, stemming from his role in activating the webcam to peek at Clementi's date with a man in their dorm room and also encouraged other to spy on the young man and intimidating Clementi for being gay.
Ravi was found not guilty of some subparts of the 15 counts of bias intimidation, attempted invasion of privacy and attempted bias intimidation but needed only to be found guilty of one part of each count to be convicted.
According to TruTV and the Associated Press, throughout the trial, Middlesex County Prosecutor Julie McClure tried to build a case that Ravi spied on Clementi's date because his roommate was gay and told his friends and Twitter followers to also spy on Clementi, describing his actions as an anti-gay hate crime. Clementi's case gained national attention when he committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge September 22, 2010. Ravi is not charged in connection with Clementi's death.
The convictions carry a possible sentence of five to 10 years in prison. Because Ravi is a citizen of India and is in the US on a green card, he could be deported following his sentencing. The US deports most criminals convicted of felonies, with the exception of thefts of amounts under $10,000.
Clementi's mother, who sat with her husband and sons in the front row for the duration of the three-week trial, broke down in tears as the first "guilty" verdicts were read. Clementi's father took notes throughout the reading of the verdicts, while Ravi's attorney, Steven Altman, put his arm around Ravi's shoulder shortly before the verdict. Ravi showed little reaction as the jury read out the verdicts to his crimes.
McClure argued that Clementi was clearly made uncomfortable by Ravi's actions, evidenced in Clementi's request for a room change that he submitted to Rutgers on September 21, the day before his death.
"Three weeks into the semester and (Clementi) finds out that his sexual orientation has been broadcast to the defendant's twitter followers," McClure said. "His private sexual activities have been exposed. What do you think he's thinking? 'If Molly saw it, did Cassie see it? Did people in the hall see it? Did people in Davidson C see it?' You don't think that he was intimidated by learning that information? Fearful, embarrassed? He'd been exposed."
Ravi's defense attorney, Steven Altman, dismissed suggestions that his client was anti-gay or targeting Clementi and claimed that Ravi was curious and immature but not malicious, when he decided to activate the webcam on September 19.
"Why we're here is because on September 19, and September 21, 2010, an 18-year-old boy, a kid, a college freshman, had an experience, had an encounter that he wasn't ready for," Altman told the jury, claiming that Ravi reacted "immaturely" to what he saw on the screen.
Altman argued that Ravi only activated the webcam to keep an eye on his belongings while an older "creepy" stranger was in the room and that Ravi's messages on Twitter and to his friends about the spying were just immature joking.
Ravi will be sentenced in May for the crimes and could be deported back to his native India when he completes his sentence, according to TruTV.
While I am not saying that Rutgers was at fault for Tyler Clementi's death directly, I do believe that Clementi should have been moved that day. He might have been safe and might have finished his freshman year at Rutgers. Instead, because he was outed by a roommate that he knew and thought he could have trusted, his life ended before it really began. It's sad but there are some that still don't understand cultures and probably never really will.
Granted, homosexuality is not discussed in some cultures and could get one killed. Having said that, Dharun Ravi chose to distrust Tyler Clementi. Dharun Ravi chose to be judge and jury and to a certain extent, the executioner. When Dharun Ravi is sentenced in May, he will in all probabilty be credited with time served in jail while awaiting trial and will have a decade to think about the actions that cost Tyler Clementi his life as well as having to think about the events that took place when he is deported.
When the fall semester starts at Rutgers and other colleges around the nation next August, students will move into dorms with people they know and will make new friends. Let's hope that this trial reminds us that we all have to live in the same space, even if we disagree about sexual orientation. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "We must either live together as brothers or suffer together as fools."
Dharun Ravi's actions tell us that he chose to live foolishly. And in prison, fools are not suffered.