Regular readers know I love long-form journalism, and I’d strongly recommend you read Ian Parker’s latest in the New Yorker. It’s about Tyler Clementi, a gay freshman at Rutgers who killed himself by jumping off the George Washington bridge. I thought I had remembered a few more of the specifics of the case, but I was wrong. Early on, Parker writes:
It became widely understood that a closeted student at Rutgers had committed suicide after video of him having sex with a man was secretly shot and posted online. In fact, there was no posting, no observed sex, and no closet.
The piece is an in-depth and nuanced look at the case against Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, who has been indicted for, “invasion of privacy (sex crimes), bias intimidation (hate crimes), witness tampering, and evidence tampering.” These charges could result in 10 years in prison.
Ravi was a mean-spirited and immature youth. But there’s a lot going on here:
If prosecutors had been able to charge Ravi with shiftiness and bad faith—if the criminal law exactly reflected common moral judgments about kindness and reliability—then to convict him would be easy. The long indictment against Ravi can be seen as a kind of regretful commentary about the absence of such statutes. Similarly, the enduring false belief that Ravi was responsible for outing Tyler Clementi, and for putting a sex tape on the Internet, can be seen as a collective effort to balance a terrible event with a terrible cause.
By the end of the article, I was genuinely conflicted on whether I wanted Ravi convicted at all. I’m still unsure. What do you think?