Dharun Ravi and the Debate Over the (In)Justice of Hate Crime Laws

The retributive theory of punishment posits that punishment is justified on the grounds that wrongdoing merits punishment; that is, the criminal gets punished because a criminal deserves to get punished. There is no utilitarian or forward-looking benefit to punishment in this model because punishment is valued without reference to the contingent benefits that the public might (or might not) enjoy. Punishment, then, is Kantian — it is justified in and of itself, independent of any benefit that may accrue to a society.

A necessary corollary to any retributive penal model is that if a criminal should be punished because he deserves it then he deserves to be punished in accordance with his desert, no more and no less. This is the theory of proportionality. Proportionalists argue that the severity of punishment should be commensurate with the seriousness of the wrong because, as Professor Andrew von Hirsch has argued, the purpose of punishment is to express a society’s distaste for certain conduct and the amount of punishment reflects the magnitude of that distaste. Any disparity between the punishment and society's view of how "bad" the criminal act was would be illogical.

The retributive doctrine of proportionality, then, animates the public's zeal for criminal penalties in severe bullying cases and hate crime cases. Tyler died and we want justice! But, we should really think more about what "justice" means in this case. Does justice mean 10 years in jail for a stupid kid who never apologized? Does justice mean deportation? Will any form of justice fill the void left by Tyler's tragic death?

In some ways, an emotional connection to justice is quite logical. As Professor Samuel Pillsbury has noted, both critics and admirers of the retributivist model agree that much of the moral weight behind the criminal law comes from our emotional reactions to wrongdoing. Such emotion is a fundamental trait of humanity and can explain why we want criminal laws in the first place. Our reactive emotions — the emotions inspired by wrongful acts — are what inspired us to create criminal laws to deal with wrongful acts in the first place. Therefore, the emotional or intuitive desire to hold Mr. Ravi responsible for Tyler's death arguably reflects a foundational feature of the criminal law.

A problem arises when this emotional desire for retribution is the only justification for a law. Consider the debates surrounding tough anti-bullying laws in New Jersey and Massachusetts and part of the discussion in Congress over the Matthew Shepard Act, the federal LGBT-inclusive hate crime law. Legislators read stories of victims and argued that perpetrators "deserved" punishment. They said that the acts were "heinous" and "merited social stigma." They wanted to "send a message" that beating up a gay kid and leaving him for dead is just as bad as lynching a black man. This goal is admirable: all laws have an expressive side and society needs the reminder that violence against gays is morally reprehensible.

However, there are three problems with the emotionalizing of law. First, it risks the exclusion of other, more meritorious reasons for passing criminal laws, such as deterrence. During the hate crime law debates in Congress, there was precious little discussion about when precisely to apply hate crime enhancements. Nor was there any evidence entered into the record that these laws actually reduce the number and severity of hate crimes. (Just to be clear, hate crime laws may indeed deter hate crimes. My point is simply that the animating factors behind legislatures passing tough anti-bullying punishments and hate crime laws have been retributive, not deterrence-related.).

Second, these laws are purposely written broadly. They have to be; otherwise, they could not have the expressive effect of enforcing the social norm that all homophobic violence is bad. They can apply to Mr. Ravi and to the villainous bigots who killed Matthew Shepard. But, few rational thinkers could confuse the perpetrators' level of culpability.

Third, a solely retributive law is no better than a purely vengeful one. The retributive concept of punishment is meant to be distinguished from revenge or retaliation based on its point of view — namely, retribution focuses on society's assessment of the defendant's wrong, whereas vengeance depends upon the impulse of the victim, or his kin, supporters, or friends, to strike back.

In the bullying and hate crime context, a retributive impulse is the state's response with tough criminal laws, whereas revenge occurs when the bullied victim or the hate crime victim and his affinity group fight back and bully or assault their harassers. Offering his defense of retributivism, Professor Douglas Husak admits that retributivists commit a logical jump from a criminal's desert to state-imposed punishment. According to Professor Husak, retributivists can argue that culpable wrongdoers deserve suffering, which can — but need not — be imposed by the state. It is punishment's attendant suffering that satisfies our intuitive and emotional responses to criminal conduct, not the fact that such suffering is imposed by the state.

After all, devices other than state punishment can satisfy the demands of retributive justice. A victim's kin can exact their own retribution, just like a bullying victim can respond to harassment by physically assaulting his tormentor. Although retributivists like Professor Husak believe in state monopolies on punishment and universal denial of a personal right to revenge, those beliefs cannot stem from retributive theory alone. There is, then, no principle internal to retributive theory that distinguishes between vengeance and state-imposed punishment.

Therefore, if proposals to criminalize egregious bullying and to enhance punishments for hate crimes are justified solely by their retributive value, such proposals are no more justified than a law that allows bullying victims to attack their tormentors with abandon or for gay persons to exact group revenge against gay bashers. Justice cannot be purely emotional. If it were, we'd be a clan culture based on so-called honor, or vengeance, killings.

The tragedy that befell Tyler requires us to hold the most culpable person responsible, and that is Mr. Ravi. But, as I have argued, the legal regime that would have justified a long and harsh sentence lacks internal consistency, reason, and all the indicia of good policy. Mr. Ravi should be punished, but how he is punished — and our response to his sentence and his disappointing behavior — will say more about the maturation of our society and our ability to distinguish emotion from reason as a legitimate basis for criminal laws.

Postscript: This column is based on an article of mine published in the latest issue of the Temple Law Review. For those interested, it is available for download here.


Ari Ezra Waldman is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. After practicing in New York for five years and clerking at a federal appellate court in Washington, D.C., Ari is now on the faculty at California Western School of Law in San Diego, California. His research focuses on gay rights and the First Amendment. Ari will be writing weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues. 

Follow Ari on Twitter at @ariezrawaldman.


  1. says

    The way I look at it two crimes have been committed here. The first is invasion of privacy for the filming of the personal sex act and broadcasting it to others via the internet. There should be a sentence for that crime. The second is the act of doing it for the purposes of terrorizing an entire community, which should have it’s own separate punishment. I don’t know how long the punishments should be for each but maybe the hate crime should ad on a percentage of time related to the first sentence rather than a set amount of time.

  2. johnosahon says

    by your thinking NOBODY should ever be charged for anything.

    KKK members should be charged if they commit a race related crime after all society is to blame for them thinking they are superior to blacks.

    a misogynistic man should not be charged for a gender related crime because society is to blame for the way women are treated.

    Ravi committed a crime and should had been sentenced to more time, 30 days is a slap on the face.

  3. Dan Cobb says

    I think the verdict is too light. Four months would have been more appropriate. And while I do not think that Ravi has learned anything at all from this experience –except perhaps how to beat an indictment in the future– I’m sure that were he to serve 10 years behind bars he would be no closer to understanding why it was wrong to do what he did… and what kind of assumptions he had when he did it.
    Ravi seems to be completely unconcerned about Tyler. I’m sure that that arrogance within him has not been tempered at all, and that mocking and vilifying a gay person still counts as a socially desireable act in his way of thinking. I do think some of this is cultural. Brahmin Indians are remarkable inpenetrable –sympathy and empathy for others is unknown in their culture. Let’s face it, they constructed a culture for themselves where all others are “lesser than”, and they act that way every day. I think we’re hoping against hope that Ravi will learn the lesson but I don’t think that’s likely to happen.

  4. antb says

    I think the sentence is too light. 10 years would have been too much, but this is way too little. It’s unlikely this sentence will change though. As a result I feel obligated to advocate for Mr. Ravi’s deportation, which I do believe is appropriate considering his now-criminal status. I would not have supported his deportation if the sentence had been more appropriate for the crime.

  5. Dave says

    There is no Justice unless you can buy it. Justice is a joke when in the hands of anti-gay Christians who are insane. Believing in things that do not exist is crazy. yet these people are in positions of power. Hitler was in power and he was a Catholic who believed in some crazy stuff like killing gays and killing people in a minority religion etc.. No Justice No peace!

  6. says

    Here’s a reality – cyber-element aside, Ravi is being punished for the very thing that wins an american conservative acclaim, power and votes. Ravi should not be punished by embodying what the majority of political
    Leaders in this country still promote anti gay sentiment. He was guilty of specific charges and offences, but as long as the US rewards
    Those who promote anti-gay bigotry with money power and seats in office nobody should punish Ravi for following their example. Nothing Ravi did is as Harmful as what the santorums the Bryan fischers and the pat robertsons of this country do and say on a daily basis. An anti-gay bulky has no power in a culture where their beliefs are the minority.

  7. Fodolodo says

    No, the distinction between retributivism and revenge is not a matter of “point of view.” It has to do with authority: the state has legitimate authority over its subjects (when exercised via the proper procedures), while private individuals don’t have legitimate authority over other people. If you go back and read the classic retributivists like Kant and Hegel, they take this idea of authority (and the associated ideas of the rule of law and no one being a judge in their own case) very seriously, unlike many contemporary philosophers.

    This is also what distinguishes the force behind retributivism from the emotional instinct for seeing bad people suffer that you associate it with: retributivism is about punishing law-breakers as part of guaranteeing the rule of law, not about punishing whoever we might have legitimate grudges against, or whoever we might have little sympathy for (whether these judgments are individual or collective.)

    And that is why Ravi’s punishment–or, as you say, at least a punishment a few months longer–is perfectly just: while his apparent lack of remorse makes him look like a pretty awful person, he should be punished for his crime, not for his moral character, and his crime, as you have rightly stressed, had the tragic consequences it did only because of a social context of homophobia and anti-gay marginalization that Ravi is not (for the most part) responsible for.

  8. says

    Those that don’t understand my post – here it is in a nutshell: focusing on Ravi is like focusing on the westboro baptist
    Church; it’s a distraction from the real enemy. Political
    Leaders, religious leaders, televangelists, and public
    Figures make a Living promoting anti-gay sentiment. They’re the enemy

  9. MrRoboto says

    I had actually been in the “give him a light sentence” camp until I saw Ravi’s post-verdict interview and saw what a smug, arrogant and entitled thug this kid really is. He has no sense whatsoever that he did anything wrong. He has no compassion or sympathy whatsoever that someone he personally attacked then took his life. And then his mother sobbing and wailing about how horrible this was for her son and that his life is ruined. That she expressed not one iota of sympathy for Tyler or his intensely grieving family shows me that both Ravi and his family continue to think he did absolutely nothing wrong. So I’d like to see a considerably longer prison sentence, and I’m not too stupid to realize that my emotions play into that. However, the reasonable side of me recognizes that prison sentences are intended to be rehabilatative. With a 30 day sentence, Ravi will likely serve no more than a couple days, if even a few hours. He’ll be processed in and immediately processed out due to overcrowding. His wealthy family will pay his fine and Ravi won’t have earned one cent of the responsibility that monetary punishment entails. And he’ll probably joke his way through any of the community service – if he even ends up doing much or any of it.

    And Tyler Clementi will still be dead and his family will still have a hole in their lives until they are also all dead. I say bring on the civil lawsuit and sue that SOB and his equally smug family.

  10. Jeff says

    Ari, your article is also missing a few things like the multiple guilty counts of witness tampering and destruction of evidence. These are both felonies. The hates crimes enhancement was just that – an add-on.
    The felonies alone deserve more than a 30 day slap on the wrist. 4-5 years would be more appropriate. The community service with LGBT’s who have been harmed is an effective way to make clear to Ravi how bias intimidation harms others. Given his lack of remorse, empathy, and emotion, 300 hours is far too lenient. 3,000 hours might be more appropriate.
    As to the emotion in the courtroom, yes it’s an emotional situation – a young man is dead when he should not be – but a court of law must deal with facts rather than emotion.

  11. Guest says

    Dear Ravi,

    Can’t wait until you enter the job market and those background checks start happening. Your future would have been easier being deported.

  12. Reggie777 says

    This argument of blaming society for Mr. Ravi’s crime sounds so reasonable until you realize that it would then mean no one should really be punished for any crime, since most if not all crimes can have some roots in social conditions and societal forces. IMHO, that is the flaw in their argument.

    These “goldilocks” apologists,[“The possible sentence might be too harsh.”… “The actual sentence is too light.”] seem to be trying to assuage their consciences. Some laws are not there to rehabilitate. Some of these people will never change their minds about gays. Some laws ARE to punish. Plain and simple, no matter how “emotional” that might sound. Or how unenlightened they might want us to feel about those laws.

    Ravi destroyed evidence. Showed no remorse. No apology to the Clementi family. No indication of wrongdoing. And members of our community are supporting him.

    I do hope that all of those who were screaming for a lesser sentence can rest happily now. They got their wish. Let’s hope they can also live with their conscience when the next bullied teen kills himself.

  13. Not one of the crowd says

    Putting people in priso is not the solution for society’s ills.

  14. says

    There are problmes with NOT “emotionalizing the law.”

    A great harm has been done to us and we’re asked to stifle our reaction to it.

    NO SALE!!!

  15. NullNaught says

    Littlekiwi is trying to turn this into something all about him and his crusade against the Republican party. This is about hate crime legislation, not the Republican party. Ignore him. He is a conservative troll here to make liberal gays look like traitors to the community. Have you noticed that Kiwi isn’t happy unless he’s bashing a gay person? That is how you know he is a troll being over-the-top on purpose. Really there are some liberals here who are actually gay and actually liberals; just not him.
    The above article was written by someone who has no memory of Mathew Shephard or is an enemy of the gay community. Hate crime enhancements are of critical importance to protect our community. Anyone who doesn’t see this doesn’t remember how many more hate crimes there were before the enhancements. If this article is written by a gay person, they are acting as a traitor to the gay community.

  16. says

    Ezara I’m really surprised at you. ALL the Gay KAPOS have gone on and on and on about Ten Years. But as we all know ten years was the maximum and there was no way in the world he was goign to be sentenced to ten years.

    But what really disgusts me is that he’s been sentenced to TEN MINUTES and there’s been no end of blather abotu how this was “the right sentence.”


  17. says

    I’ve been surprised by the level of sane, measured comments on this issue.

    I don’t think Ravi has ‘got it’ and I don’t think he will ever ‘get it’. It was an amusement for him, without regard to any personal moral sense or an awareness of current views on the insupportability of homophobia.

    He’ll never understand. He, and his family, will merely see it in terms of unfairness and abuse against him.

    It would be wonderful if the whole family were consigned to perform the duties he will have to perform…

    Even then, they still wouldn’t ‘get it’.

    What, eventually, can you possibly do to enlighten such ignorant trash?

    I don’t care how this should be viewed in relation to other issues. There’s a law and it’s been broken and that dimwit needs to understand that.

    Maybe I’m not so sane or measured as others here…

  18. says

    Mr. Ehrenstein: First, my name is Ari. Second, if you had read the piece, you would see that I would have preferred a longer sentence and that I never said that his 30 day sentence was the right sentence. i appreciate your desire to comment and your interest in the materials, but lets not put false words in anyone elses mouth.

  19. aki says

    —A great harm has been done to us and we’re asked to stifle our reaction to it.—

    But Ravi did nothing to YOU . And he should not be punished as a symbol for all that is wrong in society

  20. Caliban says

    I didn’t want Ravi to get the maximum either but agree that what he did get was too lenient. I hope the prosecutors appeal though I doubt they will since they offered him a deal with NO jail time before this went to court.

    However, I disagree with your assessment of the purpose of Hate Crime laws. Ideally hate crimes are those where a person was singled out due to a certain characteristic and, and this is the important part, are intended to intimidate or strike fear into a community. It’s the difference between burning down an empty building and setting fire to a black church or synagogue. Both are arson but one is intended to have a larger message.

    I don’t know if what Dharun Ravi did fits that definition or not, but it certainly had a chilling effect on gay students at Rutgers and other college campuses that they could be harassed in a similar manner.

  21. Not A Vigilante says

    The use of the term “emotional” is perjorative and inexact. It conveys the notion of being universally irrational whenever applied in the context of retribution. But that is exactly why we have courts of law and legislatures, rather than vigilante justice. Courts and lawmakers are intended (admittedly without 100% success) to create and apply laws rationally, regardless of whether those laws were motivated by retribution or deterrence. Additionally, why the presumption that a deterence motivation is inherently more rational? A better word than emotional might be subjective. Is it emotional to say that murder, rape and assault are abhorrant to society and deserve to be punished? Perhaps so, but that doesn’t mean that it’s irrational or that it’s bad for society to act on that collective emotion.

  22. says

    Regardless of whether we agree with him or not, this is another spectacularly written article from Mr. Waldman. I’d hope most people here would agree that editorials are a pretty fundamental aspect of journalism, and his articles, for me, are a welcome respite from the Channing Tatum updates or latest “University Swim Team Does Katy Perry Lip Synch” video.

    Ari, you’re a credit to this site. Keep it up.

  23. NullNaught says

    If they are trying to practice journalism rather than propaganda, why not have a similarly “spectacularly written article” from the opposing view? I thought objectivity was a value held by journalists and abhored by propagandists. What’s it look like to you? Two sided? How so?

  24. Frank S says

    30 months would have been better for this guy. Put him in a real prison. Also, has he even apologized for his actions? I haven’t heard a peep from him on that.

  25. Scotto X says

    Comments have quickly evolved into name calling? I think it’s important for all to recognize our own emotional reactions and investment that result from our personal experiences with homophobia on individual and social levels, since I think a good part of this is at play in the comments. We tend to prefer a justice system that seeks short-term punishment rather than rehabilitation or reform. The vast majority of persons incarcerated for crimes–hate, property, drug, violent–return to the community but instead of focusing on addressing the criminogenic factors to decrease future criminal behavior or to promote community justice to make amends to those affected by the crimes we prefer short-sighted blood letting.

    I also think, however, that they also reflect our American culture’s desire for individual level punishment as well as a need to portray things dualistically–entirely bad or good, only individual or social in origin, raging punishment or escape from justice. But there is a lot more grey in the world, folks. We even see that in the comments criticizing Mr. Waldman, who never wrote that Mr. Dharun had no personal responsibility when he cited social factors or never indicated that he shouldn’t be held accountable. Yet, both of those accusations are made by readers here.

    Long-term change in Mr. Dharun’s character or in the broader cultural environment will not be fully modified by the amount of time he spends in prison. I think 30-90 days are valid options for the privacy convictions, but should have been accompanied by mandatory participation in restorative justice programming with individuals, families, and communities that have been vicitimized by homophobic behavior. Gaining insight and making amends are more likely–though clearly not guaranteed–through this avenue than through incarceration alone.

    I personally value Mr. Waldman’s writing. I may not always agree with him, but it adds intelligent and insightful analysis and critique from a socio-legal perspectice. LGBT constituents should be open to reading and hearing multiple voices, since there is not one single shared point of view among us. And it’s a welcome change to the videos of the West Hollywood lipsynchers.

  26. anon says

    At this point he’ll complete his sentence before the blogosphere makes up its mind.

    Ravi is probably unable to “read” the emotional states of others and is generally immature. This was probably foremost on the mind of the judge. Also, his co-conspirator Wei got a ton of community service and probation, so the similarity to that plea deal was probably intentional. Keep in mind that the prosecutor was offering to plea to probation anyway, so the sentence sends the “just take the plea” message that the courts really want to get out. If the original plea deal was acceptable, how can a harsher sentence not be acceptable?

  27. Francis says

    Dharun can receive all the rehabilitation he needs——in India. Hopefully, he’s deported. And I hope the Clementi’s file a civil suit against Dharun.

    Dharun is clearly not all the way there, nor is his family. He has specifically said he feels zero responsibility regarding the circumstances surrounding Tyler’s suicide. He thinks he’s a victim and he thinks he’s a scapegoat, so therefore, no, no apologies have come from him. Absolutely zero awareness whatsoever, the kid seems like the stereotypical privileged rich kid born into a wealthy family.

    Boys will be boys culture reigns supreme in America. How can people be expected to be serious in tackling bullying when we continue to see that NOTHING is going to be done to bullies/harassers? They’re even defended. And the victims of this harassment are blamed. It’s sad and it’s sick.

  28. Jonathan Oz says

    Let’s be clear here. Yes, Ravi bears some responsibility for Tyler Clementi’s suicide, but he was not the only cause. Not to blame the victim, but suicides have multiple causes, some of them almost certainly biochemical for which no person bears responsiblity. To punish Ravi as if he had murdered Tyler Clementi with a gun, or a knife, or had pushed him off that bridge is a gross oversimplification of events. Yes, he deserves punishment for what he did do. The goal is to deter this behavior in Ravi and others, and hopefully to get Ravi to develop some empathy for those unlike himself. I’m not at all sure that a longer sentence would accomplish any more.

  29. Dan says

    Mr. Waldman’s elaborate straw-man argument can be refuted with a single word:


    FSM help us if they aren’t teaching him the meaning of that word at Harvard Law.

    Prioritizing protecting the guilty over protecting the innocent is a clear case of ostensible compassion being taken to absurd lengths.

  30. Dennis says

    It is unbelievable to me that CA Western’s midget clown version of Laurence Tribe continues to post here as if his analysis is worthy of respect. Ari, you have made a fool of yourself and have no credibility as a legal analyst.

    To take but one of many examples, you posted that this case – a criminal prosecution of an individual, in which the university is not even accused of wrongdoing – created “new rules” for universities. When are you going to enlighten us as to what those “new rules” are? In fact, all the old rules were in place here, Rutgers followed them diligently, and that is why there has not been even a single civil lawsuit against it.

    You’re a joke. You want to stand out so you take unconventional positions, even if that means belittling Tyler Clementi’s torment and dulcifying Ravi’s cruelty. Go away.

  31. litzenburn says

    It’s amazing how much people want to see other people suffer. This Ravi guy according to his Mother’s speach has barely eaten and has had absolutly no social life for the last 20 months. He looks to be depressed out of his mind in all the media pictures but no thats not enough for people. surely life would be restored to the dead young man and the world made much better if a precisely equal amount of suffering could be inflicted on the roommate and a great deal of scarring done to another young man. Why don’t we all just do our best to introduce a little more suffering into the world everyday when we decide others need it? I agree with the NJ article stating that this was just a huge lack of communication between two boys.

  32. Molc says

    Hate crimes laws are necessary-precisely because victims of crime who are gay or lesbian or transgender rarely get any justice, hello “gay panic”! Sentences are watered down or completely obliterated if victims are gay, I’m not exaggerating. Even with hate crimes laws as was the case with Tyler justice was not done because he was gay. Until the GLBT community starts getting the same justice through the legal system we have a right to be angry-especially with self appointed gay leaders in the media showing support for these sociopaths who keep hurting us. Internalized homophobia indeed.

  33. says

    It’s my understanding in this state, a convicted shoplifter would have received an automatic sentence of 90 days. I think that helps put into perspective how the court placed a value on a stolen gay young man’s life. And again–as another poster commented, Ravi had multiple convictions–not just one.

  34. Avial87 says

    Correct me if I am wrong – but is there any evidence indicating that it was Mr. Clementi’s problems relating to his homosexuality or any form of bullying he might have faced, wether it was from Society or Mr. Ravi – which caused him to commit suicide?

    He has become a symbol for bullied gay teens, but to me – based on what I’ve read from the New Yorker article and from his brother’s letters in Out – he seemed a lot more confident about his own sexuality than I was when I was eighteen and he actually seemed to be enjoying being an out gay man.
    There is also no clear evidence to even say if his mother outright rejected him – she was clearly ready to accept his older brother if he came out as gay, she was more accepting and supportive of her son than most parents are. Mr. Clementi did seem to have a support system (friends, brother, father) to help him deal with his sexuality, which is more than what gay teens can ask for.

    I am no Ravi sympathizer, I do feel he deserved more jail time – for charges related to his tampering with the evidence and witness manipulation. But I think he is justified if he feels he has been unfairly held accountable for Mr. Clementi’s suicide, when no-one, except the Clementis and the judge, knows the real reason he chose to take such a drastic step.

  35. says

    Ari you’re against retribution.


    “But Ravi did nothing to YOU .”

    Yes he did and to you too which you would know if you had an ounce of self-respect.

    “And he should not be punished as a symbol for all that is wrong in society.”

    There’s nothing “symbolic” about his crimes.

  36. Jay says

    This article is simply disgusting. At least, the prosecutor is outraged by this miscarriage of justice. He has filed an appeal of the outrageous sentence, based in part on the fact that the judge who seems as biased against gay people as Are Ezra Wildman failed to give Ravi any time at all on the bias intimidation conviction. I hope the appeal succeeds though its changes of success are said to be slight. With articles from quislings like this, they are probably slighter. The defense will say even gay people don’t think hate crimes matter–they will conclude that we are so masochistic that the problem isn’t with the bullies and the homophobes but with–guess!–us! Save us from such self-loathing creeps as this.

  37. Jay says

    I suggest you sign up to spend Ravi’s month in jail for him since you are accountable. But please don’t say I am.

  38. Chris says

    Ari, We all get that you are smart but your writing on Ravi comes off nearly as smug as Ravi himself.

    I like your pieces on federal court challenges but here you sound like a truly obnoxious prick.

    Tone it down, Harvard; we all get that you’re smart, a lot of us are. You write here as though this were an academic debate with very emotional context to a very emotional issue. You write as though you have little or no empathy for Tylers: past, present and future.

    ANDY TOWLE: This is the second time you’ve allowed this kind of obnoxious column from Waldman — you are his boss, we are your customers, how about having a chat with him about how to communicate with real gay men, with some empathy on a very sensitive issue? This is your business, and your responsibility.

  39. NVTodd says

    To get 30 days, the fine, the community service – with convictions on *so many* counts, including witness intimidation, destroying evidence and lying to investigators – is absurd.

    Multiple crimes were committed by Ravi, yet everybody is just focusing on just a couple counts – what about the rest of the charges and convictions ?

    You and I would serve FAR more time for the same convictions, and THAT is what is at issue here.

    Everybody’s focus on the suicide and just the hate crime enhancements has essentially excused every other count he was convicted of. Quite a remarkable achievement on the defense’s part; and quite the stunning f*uck up on the part of all the silly fags that claim they wanted some justice.

  40. NVTodd says

    Keep defending this verdict people.

    It’s truly remarkable that hate crime charges are capable of nullifying other crimes committed right after.

    But this has been the agenda all along – thanks ever so much for playing into the hands of the people who hate us, you retards.

  41. Chris says

    * should read: “You write as this were an academic debate, and not a very emotion issue for your readers.”

    I really would fault you for taking a law review article (unemotional by their nature as well as dry — and this piece is very dry indeed) and retrofitting it slightly to this site. Readers of this site want legal info and opinion on DOMA and Prop 8 (issues that affect them personally), but not on this case.

    Perhaps this can be lesson to you (you are what? 29? 30? I imagine it’s hard for you to understand the pain of people one or two or three decades older than you, whose discrimination experience on average is a lot graver than the average 20-something and who have lived through the cruelty (by neighbors, family, etc.) of the height the AIDS epidemic) on what is too tender to touch; when restraint in writing is the better and more tactful option.

    There was nothing that obligated you to write about this on this site. And certainly nothing that suggested you ought to write about it a second time on this site.

  42. NVTodd says

    “It’s amazing how much people want to see other people suffer. This Ravi guy according to his Mother’s speach has barely eaten and has had absolutly no social life for the last 20 months…. I agree with the NJ article stating that this was just a huge lack of communication between two boys.
    Posted by: litzenburn”

    Because nobody should have to suffer the consequences of witness intimidation, lying tot he cops, and destroying evidence ?

    Please die, all of you bleeding hearts, please, all of you, just die.

  43. aki says

    —Yes he did and to you too which you would know if you had an ounce of self-respect.—-

    So what exactly did he do to you ? Personally , not by projection.

  44. GregV says

    “The first is invasion of privacy for the filming of the personal sex act and broadcasting it to others via the internet. There should be a sentence for that crime. The second is the act of doing it for the purposes of terrorizing an entire community…”

    Neither of those things happened.
    He did not broadcast sex. He peeked at his webcam with Molly for a few seconds at two clothed guys kissing.
    There is no evidence that he intended to terrorize Tyler, let alone the gay community.
    I actually suspect he may have been sexually curious and too immature to express that for what it really was.

    We also don’t know exactly why Tyler jumped off the bridge. His suicide message just said that he was doing it, but gave no reason why.
    It’s possible that he killed himself because of Dharun, but there were other factors going on in his life too, like feeling rejected by his mother (which is HUGE to a kid) and feeling socially awkward in a brand new life situation. Dharun’s friends’ reaction also may have hurt him more than anything Dharun did. If Dharun’s father is as homophobic as Dharun seemed to think, then there’s some more blame to go around.
    There must have been a lot of people who reflected (as always happens) on what they said or didn’t say to Tyler in the days before he died.
    What should be obvious, though, is that Dharun did not create Tyler’s depression all by himself.

  45. Rich says


    I found your analysis helpful, mostly to understand why I am so uncomfortable with the concept of criminal law, or at least its implementation in the contemporary USA.

    As to the Dharun sentence, I can sum up my reaction in two sentences:
    1. I think the sentence was appropriate.
    2. I feel the sentence was wildly inadequate.

    I hope that the Clementis will pursue a civil suit against Mr. Dharun (and Does 1-10). I’d like to see the Attorney-General of New Jersey bring that suit on their behalf.

  46. Randy says

    I’m going to hazard a guess that most politicians weren’t considering various philosophies when writing laws (oh who am I kidding — lobbyists write the laws)

    Given the varied inputs into the legal system, I don’t think any single philosophy applies or dominates, so I’m not sure that’s the proper analysis to make.

    I think the public and politicians generally take a simple view. We don’t want some things to happen, and they are happening without punishment, so we apply punishments, and increase them until the occurrence drops to a reasonable level, or until we punish so many people so harshly that there is political push-back.

  47. Theo says

    Mr. Frank’s take is a load of crap. You could say that men rape women because men are hardwired to spread their seed. All crime has roots in what is hardwired within the human condition. When someone fails to control these primal urges we call it a crime and lock them up. You wouldn’t have this sort of crap at a racial hate crime case. ‘The murderer is racist and this is indicative of many members of society so my client shouldn’t be used as a scape goat because we’re all a bit racist and he should get 1 month in prison…’

  48. Johnny says

    And why was he not at least deported, he can no longer do any good in this country, not after all this.

  49. Tommy says

    I think people are over thinking this too much…He did the crime, he was convicted by a jury of his peers and he should do a good amount of time…

    1 month is ridiculous and this is exactly why the gay community sucks sometimes…this dude hates us, he has proven it in every one of his actions over the first months as Tyler’s roommate and yet we are so willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, give me a break…Ravi is a convicted criminal, sociopath and homophobe…I’m as liberal as they come but this kid needs to do a lot more time, get lots of therapy and possibly see deportation.

  50. Jay says

    Unbelievable to have this stupid kid defended on a gay blog. Please, Waldman, the next time a gay kid is bullied to death, please don’t open your yap.

  51. Nigel says

    Ravi was convicted of 15 crimes and got 30 days. Two days per crime. That is shocking. Witness tampering and destroying evidence only means two days in jail per charge. That is a travesty of justice. These are felony crimes if not committed against a gay person. Why is he not deported? Oh I forgot gay victim. Sad!

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