Tyler Clementi committed suicide last year by jumping off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson valley. While it has never been definitively established that Clementi's suicide attempt was directly tied to an ugly incident where one of his roomates, Dharun Ravi, broadcast a sexual encounter between Clementi and another student, it's seems to have been the straw that broke Clementi's back.
Ravi has been tried and convicted on multiple counts of bullying and hate crimes, and is scheduled to be sentenced today. He faces up to 10 years in prison and therein lies an interesting tale: many gay advocates and advocacy groups do not want him to be jailed.
As a result, some gay advocates are calling on the court to give Ravi probation instead of prison time.
Among them is Aaron Hicklin, editor of Out magazine, who said in an article that Ravi was being made a scapegoat for Clementi's suicide.
Another, E.J. Graff, who writes about gay and lesbian issues, said in her column in The American Prospect, "I fear that Ravi is an easy scapegoat for a complicated problem."
Jim McGreevey, the gay former governor of New Jersey, and Dan Savage, a gay columnist, are others who say that Ravi's behavior, while wrong, is being dealt with too harshly.
At least one gay advocacy group, Garden State Equality, is pressing for prison time for Ravi, although less than the maximum 10 years.
"Justice is best served by his serving some jail time for the crime committed," Garden State CEO Steven Goldstein said. "The moderate position is not to throw the book at this young man, nor should he get off Scott free."
I fall onto the side of moderation here. I do not think that ten years in prison is justified...he doesn't seem to have had malicious intent in trying to hurt Clementi...on the other hand, he invaded an innocent person's privacy. We all worry about the government doing this, but governments are at least nominally responsible to the voters. A private citizen is not so to let him off with just a warning seems out of balance.
It would send the wrong message to let Ravi off without some strict punishment, and certainly this should include deportation (he is here on a student visa). But I think a year in prison would set an example that this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated.