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'Dharun Ravi did NOT kill Clementi'

By Arthur J Pais
April 17, 2012 20:19 IST
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Ravi Pazhani and his wife Sabita sat silently as Steve Altman, their son Dharun Ravi's lawyer, and members of the Support Ravi initiative declared that Ravi was judged unfairly -- first by public opinion and then by the 'muddled' New Jersey hate laws in the case of camera spying on his Rutgers University roommate Taylor Clementi, who later committed suicide.

Ravi, who was found guilty of the major charges against him including hate crime, faces up to 10 years in jail and deportation to India.

The first of the Support Ravi meetings -- with nearly 100 people in attendance -- was held in New Brunswick, New Jersey, not far from Rutgers and the court where the trial was held.

A petition drive asking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to help Ravi's cause has been launched as America continues to debate Ravi's crime and punishment.

In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Bill Keller, former executive editor of the newspaper, compared Ravi's trial to the Trayvon Martin case in which the unarmed black teenager was shot dead.

The killer has not been arrested despite vociferous demands by Martin's family. 'Not everyone agrees with the (Ravi) verdict,' wrote Keller, adding some say that the court is looking to make an example of Ravi.

Columnist Dan Savage wrote, "I am particularly troubled by the idea that Ravi was being scapegoated for a range of factors that might have led the college freshman to take his own life…..middle and high school classmates who may have brutalised Tyler for years; school administrators who may have failed to protect him; religious leaders' and religious 'traditions' that pounded self-hatred into him."

And I'm very sorry to say this but it has to be said: Tyler's own family may bear some responsibility for his decision to end his life.'

In a rare interview -- he did not testify in court -- Ravi told ABC News he did not hate gays and while he felt sorry for Clementi's death, he did not feel responsible for it. "I feel like I was an insignificant part to his life. That's giving me comfort now," Ravi said.

Michelangelo Signorile, a columnist for The Star Ledger, refused to accept Ravi's assertions. 

"Just as his legal team put faith in what they hoped was a homophobic judicial system by refusing a plea that would have spared Ravi jail time, they're now putting faith in what they hope is a homophobic American culture," wrote Signorile, admitting that he is gay and yet grew up hating gays.

Ravi's family friends Anil K Kappa and Sandeep Sharma, who head the Support Ravi committee and who were character witness for Ravi at the trial, spent about an hour at the New Brunswick event discussing the alleged unfairness of the court and the media.

The support Ravi initiative was launched weeks before the trial when the prosecution added the bias intimidation (hate crime) charge, the committee argued, 'under pressure from media, activists and endorsements from government officials."

"Dharun has been made a poster child for a hate crime based on prosecution of thoughts, not actions," the spokesmen for the committee said. "This law was written for situations in which there is a violent act or an underlying crime that involves violence. It was not intended to be applied in cases such as this one.'"

Ravi, the committee statement said, "Is being robbed of his future, he is being held responsible for everything that Tyler Clementi went through in his entire life when his interaction with Dharun was less than three weeks."

A statement signed by most of the attendees at the March 30 meeting added, "Legislators need to revisit this statute and ensure that it is used for the correct purpose and not in a case such as this. The punishment should fit his actions. This was not a hate crime."

Meanwhile, gay author and journalist Eric Marcus wrote in The Star-Ledger. "No matter how reprehensible Ravi's actions were, he's not to blame for causing Clementi's suicide. Ravi didn't kill Clementi."
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