Was Dharun Ravi’s 30-day sentence too short, too long, or about right?

Former Rutgers freshman Dharun Ravi’s acts of spying on his gay roommate Tyler Clementi, and publicizing Clementi’s intimate encounters with another man, drove Clementi to commit suicide two years ago. In March, Ravi was convicted by a New Jersey jury on all 15 criminal charges brought against him for invasion of privacy, attempted invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, tampering with physical evidence, witness tampering, and hindering apprehension or prosecution.

Although the maximum penalty for his crimes was 10 years in prison, and although sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of more than one year, Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman sentenced Ravi to only a 30-day jail term, 3 years probation, 300 hours of community service, and fees in excess of $10,000.

Judge Berman said that the jail time was for Ravi’s witness and evidence tampering and lying to the police. The judge noted that the probation officer who interviewed Ravi had recommended no jail time because of his clean record and the unlikelihood of his committing future crimes. Before trial the prosecutors had offered, and Ravi had rejected, a plea bargain that would have resulted in no jail time.

While I think any jail sentence up to the sentencing guideline of one year would have been justified, it’s hard to fault Judge Berman for the choice that he made. Incarcerating anyone is an expensive burden on the taxpayers, and a further burden on an already crowded criminal justice system. As long as there’s no future threat to public safety, the 30-day jail sentence is a deterrent to repetition of these acts by Ravi or anyone else.

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Dharun Ravi was 18 years old when he committed his crimes. Coincidentally, Mitt Romney was 18 years old when he, according to the Washington Post and multiple witnesses and fellow attackers, instigated and led a physical assault on a gay classmate so Romney could cut the classmate’s long, bleached hair.

Romney’s penalty for gay-bashing was, –nothing. He claims now to have no memory of the incident. And now he’s a candidate for, and may actually be elected, President of the United States.

Dharun Ravi’s crimes were arguably less serious than Romney’s. He never physically assaulted or threatened his victim. So compared to Romney, I think he was fairly sentenced.

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