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Gay Suicide After Internet Video Airs


The Pecman

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The moment this story hit the wire today, I said, "I bet the poor guy was gay."

CNN covered the story this way:

Student's apparent suicide linked to webcast of sexual encounter

A Rutgers University student who apparently committed suicide was the unknowing target of an internet broadcast showing him in a sexual encounter, New Jersey authorities said Wednesday.

Two other Rutgers students have been charged with invasion of privacy after they allegedly placed a camera in 18-year-old Tyler Clementi's dorm room without his knowledge and then broadcast Clementi's sexual enounter, according to the Middlesex County prosecutor's office.

"If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university's standards of decency and humanity," Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick said in a statement Wednesday.

Although Clementi's body has not been found, an attorney for the Ridgewood, New Jersey, family said Wednesday, "On behalf of the family of Tyler Clementi, I can confirm that Tyler committed suicide last week by jumping from the George Washington Bridge."

"The family and their representatives are cooperating fully with the ongoing criminal investigations of two Rutgers University students," attorney Paul Mainardi added.

A law enforcement source confirmed with CNN that while a body has not yet been recovered, Clementi's wallet and cell phone were found on the bridge that spans the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York.

Dharun Ravi, 18, of Plainsboro, New Jersey, and Molly Wei, 18, of Princeton, New Jersey, are each charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for the September 19 broadcast, according to the prosecutor's office. Two more counts of invasion of privacy were leveled against Ravi for an attempt to videotape another encounter involving Clementi on September 21, the prosecutor's office said.

It is unclear exactly how Rutgers campus police learned that a camera had been placed in Clementi's room and used to broadcast his encounter.

Both Wei and Ravi surrendered to campus police -- Wei surrendered on Monday and was released on her own recognizance; Ravi surrendered Tuesday and was released on $25,000 bail. Ravi's attorney did not return phone calls from CNN.

According to the Middlesex County prosecutor's office, Wei apparently had not retained an attorney as of Wednesday.

If convicted, both could face up to five years in prison.

Police at the university, which has its main campus in New Brunswick, are investigating the case, university president McCormick said in his statement Wednesday.

"I deeply regret that today we learned from the family of one of our students that they believe their son has committed suicide. We are profoundly saddened by this report, and our hearts and prayers are with the parents, family, and friends of this young man, who had started at Rutgers this semester as a first-year student on the New Brunswick campus," McCormick said in the statement.

He added, "While there is a lot of information being communicated, we don't have all the facts in this case."

http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/09/29/new.je...dex.html?hpt=C1

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They omitted the fact that the kid was gay. Perez Hilton elaborates:

Tyler Clementi, a gay freshman at Rutgers University, has taken his life by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge last week after two classmates secretly filmed him having sex and then broadcast it over the internet.

Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei have each been charged with two counts of invasion of privacy, and could face up to five years in prison if convicted on a third degree offense.

Worse yet, Ravi is being charged with two additional counts of invasion of privacy, because he apparently attempted to film AGAIN two days later!

http://perezhilton.com/2010-09-29-college_...er_the_internet

The link also has an embedded video story. Horrifying tale. Kids today are so F-in' cruel...

I'm embarrassed to say that I had a scene in Jagged Angel more than six years ago where a gay high school kid is blackmailed with an internet video. In that case, it didn't get posted all over, but still...

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I am so sorry to read this. What a terrible tragedy for the boy and his family. What a wake-up call for the university administration. What a retribution on the perpetrators.

The kind of pack mentality which empowers kids to stamp all over the privacy and dignity of others in the expectation that their kudos with their peers will increase by it should have dissolved out of society soon after humans first formed packs. In the twenty-first century it should be universally considered beyond the pale. These students should not have been able to believe that their actions would be approved by their peers. There's a culture change that needs to happen in that university and in many other institutions.

I just don't want to believe that our young people (such as my grandson, who's just started university) are existing in such a barbaric environment. From my own experience you either join the bullies and become brutalised by the experience, or you join the victims and are traumatised by that. Have we got to the stage that our kids are better off NOT going to university? Perhaps even NOT going to school?

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And finally, after 24 hours, CNN updated the story and added the missing gay element:

Prosecutor: Bias charges may come in webcast of sexual encounter

From the CNN Wire Staff

September 30, 2010 7:59 p.m. EDT

New York (CNN) -- New Jersey prosecutors said Thursday they are determining whether additional charges, including bias, may be brought against two Rutgers University students accused of invading the privacy of fellow student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after his sexual encounter with another man was streamed online.

''The initial focus of this investigation has been to determine who was responsible for remotely activating the camera in the dormitory room of the student and then transmitting the encounter on the Internet,'' Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J Kaplan said.

''Now that two individuals have been charged with invasion of privacy, we will be making every effort to assess whether bias played a role in the incident, and, if so, we will bring appropriate charges,'' Kaplan said in a statement.

Under New Jersey law, a person is guilty of bias intimidation if he or she commits a crime with the purpose of intimidating someone because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or ethnicity; or if the victim or victim's property was selected as a target because of the same factors.

On the evening of September 19, Rutgers student Dharun Ravi is believed to have sent a message by Twitter about his roommate, Clementi.

"Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

Ravi, 18, of Plainsboro, New Jersey, surreptitiously placed the camera in their dorm room and broadcast video of Clementi's sexual encounter on the internet, the Middlesex County prosecutor's office said. Ravi tried to use the webcam again two days later, on September 21.

"Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again," Ravi is believed to have tweeted.

The next day, Clementi was dead.

Authorities said the 18-year-old freshman committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York. A law enforcement source told CNN that Clementi's wallet and cell phone were found on the bridge.

The New York City Medical Examiner's office said Thursday that a body recovered a day earlier from the Hudson River is Clementi's. Spokeswoman Grace Burgess said the cause of death was ruled to be suicide by drowning and blunt injuries from the impact of the jump from the bridge.

A mobile status update September 22 on a Facebook page purportedly belonging to Clementi said: "jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

Ravi and his friend Molly Wei, 18, of Princeton, New Jersey, are charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy for the September 19 broadcast, according to the prosecutor's office. Two more counts of invasion of privacy were leveled against Ravi for a September 21 attempt to videotape another encounter involving Clementi, the prosecutor's office said.

Both Wei and Ravi surrendered to campus police -- Wei surrendered on Monday and was released on her own recognizance; Ravi surrendered Tuesday and was released on $25,000 bail. Steven Altman, Ravi's attorney, had no comment Thursday. It was not clear if Wei had retained an attorney.

If convicted, the two students could face up to five years in prison.

Clementi's death brought anger from gay rights groups and support for the two accused students.

Paul Callan, a professor of media law at Seton Hall University, said Ravi and Wei could face an additional charge if it turns out that the broadcast of Clementi's encounter was fueled by hatred of gay people.

Details about Clementi's sexual orientation are unclear. Rutgers University student Danielle Birnbohm, who lived next door to Clementi's and Ravi's room in the dorm, told CNN affiliate WPIX that Clementi was gay. "It was obvious," she said.

Ravi apparently tweeted a message on August 22, nine days before classes began at Rutgers. "Found out my roommate is gay?" the tweet, believed to be posted by Ravi, said, according to Topsy, a search engine that allows users to access tweets removed from Twitter. In that same tweet, the writer linked to a thread on JustUsBoys.com.

On another page on JustUsBoys.com, someone posted a thread labeled "college roommate spying."

The user dubbed cit2mo wrote on September 21, a day before Clementi jumped from the bridge, "so the other night i had a guy over. I had talked to my roommate that afternoon and he had said it would be fine w/him. I checked his twitter today. he tweeted that I was using the room (which is obnoxious enough), AND that he went into somebody else's room and remotely turned on his webcam and saw me making out with a guy. given the angle of the webcam I can be confident that that was all he could have."

Cit2mo asked readers what he should do, including whether to get another roommate. Cit2mo also said he didn't want to report his roommate and "then end up with nothing happening except him getting pissed at me...."

In another post, cit2mo wrote about his roommate. "I guess what he was doing was...he was in another person's room, with other people... and so I feel like it was 'look at what a fag my roommate is' ... and the fact that the people he was with saw my making out with a guy as the scandal whereas i mean come on...he was SPYING ON ME....do they see nothing wrong with this?"

Several people who responded to cit2mo's post expressed outrage and said the webcam was an invasion of privacy. Cit2mo said he might talk with a resident assistant in the dorm.

Cit2mo later responded that he had reported the incident. "He [the resident assistant] seemed to take it seriously... he asked me to email him a written paragraph about what exactly happened... I emailed it to him, and to two people above him...."

That post came at 6:17 a.m. on the day that Clementi disappeared. It was the last message cit2mo put on the forum.

CNN was unable Thursday to determine whether cit2mo was Clementi, but a laywer for the justusboys.com website said the posts were traced back to Rutgers. A label under cit2mo's name on the forum had been changed from "On the Prowl" to "In Loving Memory" Thursday.

"To me, it looks like that's the guy," said Chad Belville, attorney for Colorado-based BluMedia, which owns justusboys.com.

Belville told CNN the company will keep the posts on the site.

"We don't want to cover up what happened. This is a learning experience. This is what gay men are going through," Belville said. "I hope we can reach out to some other isolated kids who really need some place to go."

In a later statement, BluMedia said "Tyler's death brings national attention to the fact that anti-gay bigotry is still alive and well, even in our universities. While Tyler's death has brought focus to the abuse gay men face every day, countless others continue to silently suffer. We hope that this tragedy will open the eyes of any who believe anti-gay bigotry causes no harm."

Rutgers won't comment on the chat forum because of an ongoing investigation, said Gregory Blimling, vice president for student affairs.

Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick said the community was grieving for Clementi.

"I have spoken with Tyler's parents to extend my own and the university's deepest sympathies, and we will continue to respect the family's request for privacy," McCormick said in a statement Thursday. "It is up to us at Rutgers to honor this young man's life by reaffirming, and living up to, our commitment to the values of civility, dignity, compassion,and respect for one another."

The group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays cited several cases of young people it said were victims of hate crimes and severe bullying. "It's time to take a stand for youth, families and inclusive safer school laws and policies," the organization said.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay and lesbian civil rights organization Garden State Equality, said he was sickened by this incident.

"There are no words sufficient to express our range of feelings," Goldstein said. "We are outraged at the perpetrators. We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind. And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others' lives as a sport."

But Raj Ardeshna, 17, a senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North in Plainsboro, N.J., and a former classmate of both defendants, told CNN that the two were "terrific people."

"To know that two intelligent kids could get caught up in something like this is shocking to me," Ardeshna said. "The only rationale I've been able to come up with is that they thought they were being funny -- but I really couldn't tell you. Without a doubt they must both be filled with regret and are distraught over what happened to Tyler, and as cliched as it sounds -- they are both good people," Ardeshna said. "And they just turned 18 and they just went to college, and everyone slips up without understanding the consequences."

Kirbi Marquez, a Rutgers student and a classmate of Ravi and Wei in high school, told CNN "had they known the consequences of their actions, they would not have considered doing this."

"I'm sure they're bearing the guilt, they're both sympathetic people and good kids and they didn't mean for any of this to happen," said Marquez.

He said he and others at the high school think they are getting a bad rap when, in fact, the allegations "are not a reflection of our values" while at the school.

Parry Aftab, the founder and executive director of StopCyberBullying.org, said the two must have had an inkling on what might happen.

"These young people had to have known the devastating effects of their actions," Aftab said. "And while they may not have foreseen death -- they had to have known how much pain that this would cause."

Those who knew Clementi described him as quiet and an accomplished musician -- he played violin with the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, thousands of people joined memorial pages set up for Clementi, whose apparent tragedy began on the internet and continued to unfold there.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/09/30/new.je...dex.html?hpt=T1

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I hope they not only throw the book at these clowns and put them in jail, I hope the kid's family files a civil suit for wrongful death and gets a fortune. If the perpetrators were going to Rutgers, trust me, their families have deep pockets. Sue the bastards and make their lives miserable. Maybe this will eventually get the point across.

And BTW, I would be just as opposed to this if the guy was straight. This is a grotesque violation of privacy by any definition and is not funny in any way.

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It's sad that these two students, who just turned 18 years old, didn't have the maturity to think beyond the moment. They not only ruined and caused the end of another student's life, they damaged their futures. They may be dismissed from Rutgers University. They will probably get probation, though they may go to prison. They embarrassed and humiliated their families and relatives. What they did will be uncovered every time they apply for a job. This stupid act will follow them, despite what they might think. It was on YouTube. It was on Facebook. It was on Twitter. It is available on the Wayback Machine.

What I'd like to ask Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei is this:

Why didn't you think about what you were doing?

Why did you think it was funny to use a webcam to spy on Ravi's roommate when he was having sex?

Why did you think humiliating this student because he was gay was so funny that you had to put it on YouTube?

Why didn't you learn anything about how to relate to others when you were in high school?

Why didn't you learn anything about how to respect others from your parents when you were growing up?

Colin :wav:

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I expect they'll whine and carry on and weep great tears and say they didn't mean any harm, it was just a joke. And I expect they'll get off. Some lawyer will buy a new yacht.

I have lost all faith in our current culture.

James

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Sirius/XM shock jock Howard Stern (normally fun and outrageous) was completely appalled by this story, and raged about it on the air for a good 20 minutes on Thursday. He said a lot of the same things that were brought up here, and also said that if this kind of thing had happened to him when he was 18, he would've been mortified, possibly to the point of suicide.

Stern also pointed out that a similar incident was depicted in the comedy film American Pie, and no doubt that's where the other students got the idea. Unfortunately, some of today's kids have a hard idea separating what's acceptable in real life from what happens in movies.

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  • 1 year later...

The judge has sentenced the man who broadcast the sexual encounter with his Rutgers roomate and another male and was found guilty at his trial after the roommate jumped to his death off a bridge.

The sentence was for 30 days. It could have been for 10 years and involved deportation.

This was a very complex case. Many gay advocacy groups had hoped for no jail time at all. Others thought the book should have been thrown at the man, even though he wasn't tried for anything involving the death of his roommate.

Does anyone here have views on this sentence?

C

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The single thing I'm most angry about with this case is that the Indian student, Dharun Ravi, never apologized to the family and never showed any remorse. I think a 10-year sentence would have been grossly excessive, but I think a 1-year sentence would have been about right and sent a message about gay bullying.

Ravi did get 30 days in jail, plus three years of probation, has to perform 300 hours of community service, undergo counseling and pay a $10,000 fine that will go to an organization providing assistance to victims of bias crimes. I'm hoping that Tyler Clementi's family will go after Ravi with a wrongful death civil suit.

If you've seen interviews with Ravi on television, to me, he comes across as being very arrogant, priviledged, and completely unrepentant. His attorney's message in court was basically, "the gay student had a lot of personal problems, and those were what led him to suicide -- not the embarrassment caused by my client." But to me, if you torment somebody who has personal problems, and they commit suicide, surely you're still somewhat responsible. It's not about being straight or gay; it's about disrespecting somebody else's privacy and causing them emotional pain.

More details here:

http://www.huffingto..._n_1532614.html

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Just my two cents, but I think it is a travesty of justice! Yes, it will always be in his record, and get brought up when he applies for jobs in the future, but the boy he destroyed has no future. Straight or gay, it was wrong. The fact he tried to do it a second time shows it was not "just a prank". This was an on-going vendetta.

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This case is no less disturbing now than it was then.

* It's not nice and not merely a prank to video and distribute a roommate's private sex life or date. Not if it's someone of the same sex and not if it's the opposite sex. You've just invaded his privacy and humiliated him and his date / boyfriend / girlfriend. This will *not* be something he laughs about with you this week or next semester or twenty years from now. It's a bad idea. A water balloon is a prank. Film of him making out or doing the horizontal (or vertical) mambo isn't a prank. This is your roommate, right? Think!

* If this is because your roommate is gay/bi or you *think* he might be, are you going to feel better about it if you have proof he is? Is he going to trust you when he finds out you're spying on him and you don't like his sexual orientation or habits? No, your roommate is not going to be happy with you. Why are you so eager to prove it, if you're not going to like it?

* If your roommate has emotional or behavioral problems and you know this, and you know he might be at risk, then pulling some mean prank or bullying him, or certainly doing something as underhanded as the video and broadcasting it, is *of course* going to put him at risk of serious increased emotional, behavioral trouble. Whether he withdraws or acts out or tries to harm himself or you, or some other extreme reaction, you've made it unnecessarily worse by pushing him like that. Why do that to someone you know has a rough time? Why be cruel?

The guy who did this may not have directly caused the roommate's suicide, but his actions were a major contributing factor.

One of my high school classmates did commit suicide after he was caught doing something on campus. He felt so ashamed that apparently he couldn't continue. It was likely not gay, but it did become public knowledge what he'd done. He got in trouble at school and at home. -- And no one will ever know what he would have been like at 18 or beyond. That is the greatest part of the loss. What he did and the shame of getting caught were not worth him dying for it. (And he shouldn't have done that on campus. But surely some nice girl or guy would've liked to be with him...it's just sad, such a needless loss. He was a nice guy, too.)

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Here's a very thoughtful piece on Slate.com that analyzes both sides of the story:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2012/05/dharun_ravi_received_a_light_sentence_for_spying_on_tyler_clementi_.html

The writer mentions that there were quite a few gay commentators who felt that a severe sentence would be overkill, given that this was not a violent attack -- it was bullying, but more embarrassing than anything else. The newswriter also quotes the judge, saying: “I haven’t heard you apologize once.” And: “You can’t expunge the misconduct and the pain you have caused.”

If Ravi had shown true remorse and had profusely and sincerely apologized, I would have a different opinion. This is an awful story, with no winners -- only losers. Justice hasn't been served here, and lives are ruined.

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Even sympathetic straights don't understand the impact of what it means to be subjected to exposure of one's private sexual moments...solely because they are gay.

In my opinion, a proper sentence, in addition to any jail time, would have included Ravi doing community service for a gay support organisation, say, for 10 hours a week for six months. Exposure to real live gay people may well have resulted in Ravi realising the full extent and horror of his actions.

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Here's a very thoughtful piece on Slate.com that analyzes both sides of the story:

http://www.slate.com..._clementi_.html

The writer mentions that there were quite a few gay commentators who felt that a severe sentence would be overkill, given that this was not a violent attack -- it was bullying, but more embarrassing than anything else. The newswriter also quotes the judge, saying: “I haven’t heard you apologize once.” And: “You can’t expunge the misconduct and the pain you have caused.”

If Ravi had shown true remorse and had profusely and sincerely apologized, I would have a different opinion. This is an awful story, with no winners -- only losers. Justice hasn't been served here, and lives are ruined.

I agree, it's a tragedy all round, and there was no way to make anyone whole at trial. I also happen to think the verdict wasn't all that bad. Which is controversial, I know, but I can't help look at Ravi and see what he is, an immature college kid. He's 20 now, and was 18 when this occurred. He was just starting college, and probably away from home for the first time. He and his family both claim what he did did not stem from homophobic feelings. While that sentiment is self-serving, there's been nothing brought forward to show it untrue.

I don't see what good a lengthy jail sentence would do here. I was also reminded, when hearing the verdict, of a somewhate similar case. I started to compare this, in my mind, with what happened with Romney at that age. He pulled a prank on someone, but did it with violence and against screaming protests. The prosecution in Ravi's case was hampered by the fact that there was no violence here. Ravi's reasons for doing what he did seem weak and weird. Which makes me again think of his age. 18-year-olds often don't think out their actions.

Romney's act was violent. He was also 18, or 17. His punishment? None at all. His age and position were mitigting factors. What he did was just as bad or worse, taken as the act alone. His victim didn't kill himself. That's something to be thankful for. If he had, then what?

That what Ravi did ultimately resulted in a death is why so many people wanted the book thrown at Ravi. But Ravi had no idea that would occur and certainly didn't set out to cause that. Even the prosecution agreed that there was no legal joining of the death and Ravi's actions. That being the case, increasing his sentencing because of the death wouldn't be right.

This is indeed a sad case, one without a satisfying conclusion. But I think it would be worse if a kid of 18 who did something without thinking through the consequences, consequences that he didn't anticipate or desire, and who's already spent two years being pilloried for it, were thrown in jail for the next ten years. I personally am thankful in this case for a compassionate judge.

C

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I personally am thankful in this case for a compassionate judge.

True, but: I wish we had a compassionate defendant. I'm still angry that he would not apologize and cop to his responsibility. I really feel like Ravi thought this was an "inferior" kid who didn't deserve any sensitivity or understanding.

Look at it this way: if the other kid were straight, it would be every bit as much an invasion of privacy and a gross embarrassment if his roommate set up a webcam and broadcast him losing his virginity on the internet. People gotta leave each other alone. Let them live their own lives, as long as they don't bother you.

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True, but: I wish we had a compassionate defendant. I'm still angry that he would not apologize and cop to his responsibility. I really feel like Ravi thought this was an "inferior" kid who didn't deserve any sensitivity or understanding.

Look at it this way: if the other kid were straight, it would be every bit as much an invasion of privacy and a gross embarrassment if his roommate set up a webcam and broadcast him losing his virginity on the internet. People gotta leave each other alone. Let them live their own lives, as long as they don't bother you.

Oh, I agree with you entirely. Which is strange, actually. When have we ever agreed totally before? But I wasn't making the point I thought Ravi was a hell of a great person and I'd like to have him over for dinner. My point was that no greater good would be served by throwing his ass in jail for ten years, or even five. I picture him as a freshman college student, still wet behind the ears, in a new situations with new rules, and he didn't think through his actions. Then the world caved in on him. Perhaps not showing remorse doesn't mean he doesn't have it, or perhaps he's confused because he doesn't feels his actions were basically innocent and none of this should have happened. I don't know. And that's the point, isn't it? We don't know and are trying to vicariously paint our own feelings over him. Trying to discern what's inside him, what he's actually feeling, is a thankless and unrewarding task.

Of course we'd all like to see some contrition. But that isn't the point.

C

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My point was that no greater good would be served by throwing his ass in jail for ten years, or even five.

I agree -- but a year would've been better than 30 days.

I picture him as a freshman college student, still wet behind the ears, in a new situations with new rules, and he didn't think through his actions. Then the world caved in on him. Perhaps not showing remorse doesn't mean he doesn't have it, or perhaps he's confused because he doesn't feels his actions were basically innocent and none of this should have happened.

Ravi had 18 months to think about this. He couldn't have simply made a :10 second speech in court to the victim's family, and simply said, "I'm terribly sorry for my role in the incident that led to your son's death, I was very thoughtless and unkind, and I wish it had never happened"?

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