In a case that put a spotlight on cyber bullying, a Rutgers student identified as Dharun Ravi, 20, has been convicted at trial on charges including invasion of privacy, witness intimidation, inhibiting apprehension, tampering with evidence and the more serious charge of bias intimidation.
The verdict could open more discussions on the definitions of hate and bias crimes to help bring law enforcement up to speed in an era of an evolution in technology. “It’s a watershed moment, because it says youth is not immunity,” said Marcellus A. McRae
, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice.
While the student was not charged with the ensuing suicide of Tyler Clemente, the student who was the victim of the spying, many people felt that Ravi was, in essence, being punished for the incident. Clemente committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after Ravi used social media and text messages to invite others to view the video of Clemente engaged in intimate contact with another man. Bruce J. Kaplan, the prosecutor in Middlesex County, has said that the jury sent a strong message against bias and hate crimes.
“They felt the pain of Tyler,” he said.
Ravi had rejected two prior plea-bargain deals, including one that might have seen any jail time waived. He now faces as much as ten years in prison. Immigration officials must also decide
whether Ravi would face deportation to his native India.
Sentencing has been set for May 21, 2012.