D.C. Council Member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Arlington County Board Member Walter Tejada (D) join the Politics Hour crew in the studio.
Speak up about the sentencing of Tyler Clementi’s roommate, the indictment of a close friend of Mayor Gray, the performance of local sports teams, or anything else that’s on your mind. Share the latest views on your neighborhood with Kojo.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt's your turn. Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was found guilty in March of invasion of privacy, bias, intimidation and tampering with evidence. He could face up to ten years in jail. Reading from a report by Kashmir Hill of Forbes who said that Judge Glenn Berman instead sentenced him to 30 days in jail, 300 hours of community service, sensitivity courses of cyber bullying and alternative lifestyles and three years of probation, also ordering that he give $10,000 to a community organization that helps victims of bias crimes.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIYou will remember that in the wake of that revelation, Tyler Clementi committed suicide, and though there was a lot of discussion over this case, and whether or not the consequences of Dahrun Ravi action should be included in the sentencing, well, the judge apparently decided not to do that. What is your view? 800-433-8850 is the number to call, and joining us now by telephone is Kashmir Hill of Forbes. Kashmir Hill, thank you so much for joining us.
MS. KASHMIR HILLHi, Kojo, thank you for having me on.
NNAMDICan you explain the sentencing, the judge's reasoning in the sentencing in the Dahrun Ravi case?
HILLWell, for one thing, he seemed to express the fact that he didn't actually think that it was a hate crime, and that Dahrun Ravi was guilty of colossal insensitivity, but that he had not in fact acted out of, you know, discriminating against Tyler Clementi. A lot of people, you know, wanted a harsher sentence to prevent these kinds of invasions of privacy, but the judge ultimately decided that, you know, this kind act is something that warrants a fairly light sentence when it comes to incarceration.
NNAMDILet me go to the telephones. Here's Gary in Washington D.C. Gary, you're on the air. Go ahead please. It's your turn.
GARYHi Kojo. You know, apart from the bias intimidation, you know, he was convicted of lying to police and illegally influencing a witness and apart from the bias he was also convicted of invasion of privacy, regardless of whether that was a bias crime or not. So I think on appeal he's still going to end up with a criminal record regardless of whether he succeeds in appeal or not, and he does seem to be kind of a bad guy. Not a terribly bad guy but, you know, definitely a bad guy legally, especially when we consider the illegally influencing a witness.
NNAMDIIs there likely -- Kashmir Hill, is there going to be an appeal in this case?
HILLYeah. And while he was doing the sentencing, the judge actually spoke as to more on the witness tampering and the evidence deletion, rather than talking as much about the invasion of privacy. Dahrun Ravi had deleted 86 text messages and deleted tweets about what he had done, and also tried to convince one of the witnesses to go along with him. And it actually seemed in the sentencing that the judge focused on -- was focusing on that in terms of giving him the jail time.
HILLAnd in terms of the invasion of privacy, there was, in addition to the jail time, Dahrun Ravi has to pay a $10,000 fine or pay $10,000 to a community organization that helps victims of bias crimes. So it seemed like it was a monetary punishment for the invasion of privacy and the bias, and then 30 days for basically, you know, interfering with the police investigation.
NNAMDIIt's your turn, you can share our opinion about this or anything else on your mind by calling 800-433-8850. The NAACP endorsement of same-sex marriage or reporting on Mitt Romney's activities in high school as it relates to his presidential campaign. It's your turn. 800-433-8850. Kashmir Hill, what does this case tell us about how the legal system handles expectations of privacy in the digital age? This is an incident that took place in a dorm room that was the home of both the perpetrator and the victim.
HILLWe live in a difficult age when it comes to privacy. We all have this amazing spying device on us in the form of a Smartphone, we have all of these digital tools that, you know, 20 years ago seemed like something out of a James Bond movie, and so it's just getting easier and easier for us to invade other people's privacy, and I think it's really difficult for the justice system to deal with this. In part it's because of how we as a society value privacy.
HILLIn this case, I think for the Judge, you know, even with the fact that Tyler Clementi committed suicide later, he couldn't really tie that back to the privacy invasion and say that a harm to your privacy is worth, you know, several years in jail, or several years in prison. So I think that at least the criminal courts would like to see invasion of privacy handled elsewhere like in the civil courts, which is something that could not happen. Tyler Clementi's family could go after Dahrun Ravi in civil court, but it is something that the criminal system doesn't seem to be interested in dealing with with harsh punishments.
NNAMDIWell, I'm quoting you here. Ravi had deleted public tweets in which he talked about streaming Clementi's sexual encounter, tweets that Clementi saw. He deleted 86 text messages, lied to police investigators, attempted to influence other witnesses including Molly Wei from whose bedroom he activated his webcam, but there's this. As -- you write, as to the webcam spying itself, the judge seemed to indicate that these types of crimes may be better addressed outside of the criminal system given the decision to punish Ravi with a relatively light incarceration but a fairly large fine.
NNAMDIAnd you seem to suggest that not only the judge, but that a lot of people in the criminal justice system are thinking that way.
HILLYeah. I mean, I think the hope from a lot of trial watchers was that the judge would give Ravi a fairly, you know, harsh punishment to basically prevent other college freshman from doing something like this. But with this light sentence, I think it's more of a warning to future prosecutors that -- I mean, the New Jersey prosecutor spent a lot of time and resources on this case and they did not get the sentence that they were hoping for. They did announce -- they asked for a stay for now and said they planned to appeal this decision by the judge.
NNAMDIAnd you talk about how in different states in the nation they're handling these invasions of privacy differently. It seems that we have yet to come to a consensus on this issue.
HILLYeah. In some states this kind of invasion of privacy would be a misdemeanor, in other states it's a felony. I think we're still dealing with, as a society, and as a legal system, what an invasion of privacy is, and how to define the different ways that you can do this now with computers, with cameras.
NNAMDIOkay. Kashmir Hill of Forbes, thank you very much for joining us.
HILLThank you for having me on.
NNAMDIIt's your turn. 800-433-8850. We will start with Darryl in Washington D.C. Darryl, you're on the air go ahead, please.
DARRYLYeah. I think that they just realized that they didn't want to ruin this child's life -- this young man's life. I mean, everybody -- they call -- nowadays everybody's screaming for just the ultimate punishment, the ultimate punishment, and I think that they just didn't want to ruin this kid's life, and I think they did the perfect thing here, but they've let you know going forward it'll be a charge, and established a pattern for this. It's kind of like they've set a precedent for it to -- so that, you know, nobody's going to get creamed on this deals, but you understand that there will be a major charge going forward.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call, Darryl. We move onto Kay in Silver Spring, Md. Kay, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KAYHi Kojo. I also feel that the sentence was a bit on the light side, but I'm calling about the NAACP.
KAYAnd as a Jewish heterosexual in my 60s and strong advocate and ally for LGBT rights, I was also as a card-carrying member off and on of the NAACP since about the '70s, I was thrilled with the president's pronouncement on May 9, and absolutely stunned and proud of the NAACP. I think it may go somewhat in leading -- I don't know how far, but in leading some folks in the community to rethink their stance.
NNAMDITalk about what you see is the significance of the NAACP doing this because the NAACP...
NNAMDI...in the minds of most people has been associated for the past hundred years or so with trying to advance and protect the rights of what it says in its title colored people, usually meaning African-Americans, and there used to be -- or still is, resentment in some parts that people in the LGBT community have latched onto the very same rights that the NAACP fought for, but obviously the NAACP now agrees with them.
KAYWell, I actually think it's all connected. Some people resist that, but, you know, with icons such as Julian Bond and John Lewis, thanks to, you know, Eugene Robinson's column this morning leading the way, I think that there are -- it's a problem in the African-American church community in higher percentages, and I think that that has resulted in people, you know, the expression in terms of people hiding more in the communities of color...
KAY...and the Hispanic community. And it's basically an issue of tolerance. It's just the idea that, you know, it's time has come, and it's just the right side of tolerance, and the graphs on, you know, the opposite race or different race marriages and other issues of our time. The graphs show that the -- in this area, there have been great leaps forward, that this has moved at a faster pace despite all the negativity that's going on every day such as that judge in Virginia.
NNAMDIAnd I'm -- oh, you mean the fact...
NNAMDI...that that judge in Virginia was not -- the openly gay judge in Virginia...
NNAMDI...was not approved by the Virginia House of Delegates because they said he was too much of an activist. Kay, thank you very much for your call. I'm pretty sure there was a vigorous debate inside the NAACP before this decision was made. Here is Kelly in Purcellville, Va. Kelly, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KELLYKojo, thanks for taking my call. I had called about the Mitt Romney thing, but I wanted...
KELLYI appreciate it. I wanted to say how much I appreciate the last caller's remarks. I think it's phenomenal that the NAACP has taken a stand on this, and I hope people don't think it's just because the president is of that race and they feel like they need to back him. I hope they're doing this from a real sense of this has -- this kind of prejudice has to stop.
NNAMDIAs I said, I'm pretty sure there was a pretty vigorous debate inside the NAACP, but you wanted to comment on Mitt Romney.
KELLYYeah. I'm, you know, more than anything else, I would like to see Obama to come back for four years. You know, I think that that would be the absolute best thing for us, but this whole idea of attacking people's records when they were in school seems just wrong, just outrageous, and you've got to wonder what part, you know, we're in such a partisan place right now in America, so willing to just jump on the smallest thing. I got to wonder when it's all going to stop. Who's going to put their foot down? And I would have hoped that it would have been the Democrats, but now I'm starting to wonder.
NNAMDIWell, we got a tweet from someone who asks, "How is it that Romney's Bain Capital record is not in question? Romney's main argument in handling the economy is his business record. It seems hard to imagine how his time at Bain Capital would not be relevant." It is clearly a part of the discussion that's taking place right now, but we didn't bring it up as one of the questions to which you should respond. Do you think at the record at Bain Capital is fair game, Kelly?
KELLYThat I do think is fair game because I think it points very clearly to the fact that Romney is out of touch with the day-to-day economies that Americans face, that his view of American business and American corporations comes from a very elitist place, and that, you know, it's all about how you make money and how you make profit for stockholders and not about the people who go to work day to day for $15 an hour.
NNAMDII'm pretty sure that Mitt Romney's people will tell you that Bain Capital saved a lot of companies that saved a lot of jobs of a lot of ordinary everyday working people, and thus the debate has begun. Kelly, thank you very much for your call. On now to Dan O'Neal (sp?) in Frederick, Md. Dan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANHi Kojo. I think it's a good show. I think that young man got a really, really proper outcome for his egregious act, and he'll spend probably many more thousands on appeal than to just pay the $10,000 fine, do your 30 days in jail, take a little time for some self introspection, and try to make better choices.
NNAMDIWell, you know, I'll finish with our guest, Kashmir Hill's, description of Ravi's mother's description of her son's life who she says might be more -- that might be more of a deterrent than the sentence that he got. She said her son has become a recluse who eats one meal a day, lost 25 pounds since charges were filed, spends all of his time reading and completing college courses he has signed up for. So in her view, of course, he is paying a penalty for it, but of course opinions differ. Dan O'Neal, thank you very much for your call, which is precisely why we have Your Turn so we can hear your differing opinions on issues. Thank you all for your calls and your emails and thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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