Complex 'hate' case

Perhaps the case against college student Dharun Ravi attracted such widespread attention because it touched on so many important themes - bullying, the new social media, and the difficulty of growing up gay even in an increasingly tolerant age. If any good comes from this tragedy, it is furthering the discussion on these topics.

The case again demonstrated how insensitive, prankish actions can have terrible results. It showed that new technologies are eroding privacy and enhancing the damage that can come from demeaning others. And it fueled a debate as to when misbehavior crosses the line from mean-spirited to illegal.

In 2010 Rutgers University assigned as roommates Mr. Ravi, who as a child emigrated from India, and Tyler Clementi, a gifted violinist. Mr. Clementi, just 18, had only recently told his parents of his same-sex orientation. Three weeks into the school year, Mr. Clementi asked his roommate if he could have privacy for the evening because he was meeting someone.

Mr. Ravi set up a webcam to spy on the men, going into another classmate's room to watch. Though catching only a glimpse of an embrace, Mr. Ravi sent out Twitter messages that his roommate was "making out with a dude."

Distraught over the invasion of his privacy (checking his roommates Twitter feed 38 times to see what others were saying about him), Mr. Clementi asked for a room change. Two days later he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

Prosecutors concluded Mr. Ravi's acts were criminal and a jury agreed, convicting him on all 15 counts, including privacy invasion, bias intimidation based on sexual orientation (a hate crime), and tampering with evidence.

Facing up to 10 years in prison, what was the proper sentence for a stupid, teenage prank? What is the deserved punishment for colossal insensitivity?

New Jersey Judge Glenn Berman made the right call in opting for leniency, imposing a 30-day sentence, $11,000 in fees, three years of probation and 300 hours community service.

Mr. Ravi is not a serious repeat offender threat. For his insensate action this immature college kid has spent two years in the justice system, a subject of scorn. He must live with his actions and their awful results.

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