Judge Berman's sentencing decision may well disappoint M.B., as well as the Clementi family. They didn't ask for a particular sentence, saying they trusted the judge to get it right. Did he? I think the answer is yes, if you pay attention to the judge's reasoning. He faulted Ravi's lack of remorse and humility, saying, "I haven't heard you apologize once." The judge also said, "You can't expunge the misconduct and the pain you have caused."But Judge Berman rightly found that Ravi is probably not at risk to commit another similar offense. He took into account Ravi's young age--18 at the time of the spying--and his previously clean record. And Judge Berman also was right, I think, to say that while what Ravi did was wrong, he didn't contemplate the harm his misconduct would cause. And Judge Berman correctly pointed out that in the New Jersey cases in which a conviction for a bias crime has led to a long prison sentence, the bias was related to a crime of violence. A victim was beaten with a metal rod, for example. There was no violence at issue here, however unsavory the webcam spying was, and it's an important distinction that's worth preserving. Though I found myself more torn about the light sentence Ravi received today than I expected, I agree with the gay rights activists who have questioned what purpose a harsh prison sentence for Ravi would serve.
I don't think it would have served much. I really don't want to write that. There's a kind of weak nebbish bullying that you see from Ravi in this New Yorker piece that just infuriates. There's a natural urge to want to punish someone like that, or bring them to justice. But I think Ian Parker, following up his New Yorker piece has it right when he looks at the unmet desire to see Ravi express some contrition:
...this unmet desire is a reminder of something that the Ravi case seemed almost designed to illustrate: criminal law is not always the perfect means for reaching political or social goals.
Jail is pretty awful. A ten year bid would have almost certainly subjected to the constant threat of violence. I can't really see what good that would do. The criminal justice system can't really make people "good." It can't exact vengeance upon slime-balls. And it can't make Ravi and his supporters introspective at all. One of the problems of suicide it's that it leaves the living groping for answers. I don't a lengthy jail bid would have supplied any.
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