On Thursday morning, prosecutors announced that former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi has agreed to plead guilty to one count of attempted invasion of privacy for live streaming his then-roommate, Tyler Clementi, in an intimate encounter with a man in September 2010. Days later, Clementi, 18, jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death. (Ravi maintains his actions did not lead to Clementi’s death.)
Ravi was convicted of 15 counts of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation in March 2012 but appealed his conviction. In September, a New Jersey appeals court overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial. Instead, Ravi and the prosecutor agreed to the deal announced Wednesday in which Ravi was sentenced to time served.
He and his attorney did not immediately have a comment, but Clementi’s mother, Jane, wrote this piece.
Time is a very interesting concept. But what I have found is time is actually a very personal experience. My time stopped when my world crashed apart into a thousand pieces, on Sept. 22, 2010. It feels to me as if it was just yesterday. I was so numb for so long that it seemed as if time just stood still. The pain and anguish held me tight and would not go away or subside. My life was frozen in time. And yet in the same moment — if you can even imagine — there was this giant chasm of nothingness in which it seems like it was an eternity when I last heard Tyler’s voice, his laugh or his music, and it is extremely difficult to remember the touch of his hand or his hug.
So to hear now that the time has come to move on is extremely painful … everyone is saying this has gone on long enough and now it’s time to move on. I am told that Mr. Ravi wants this to go away and he wants to move on. He wants to get on with his life. So he will plead guilty to one of the many counts against him and then shut the door and move on with his life.
As if you can put part of your life in a box, tape it shut and poof it is gone. It does not exist any longer. If only it were that simple.
How can someone forget a life experience that had such drastic consequences? I cannot even imagine that. For that to be possible a person would have to have no heart or soul … no conscience at all.
We continue to learn as we journey on in this world from all our experiences. Maybe Mr. Ravi has not learned anything but due to the public nature of all the media coverage, I hope those reading this have learned something. Maybe there are loopholes in the legal system that allow a person to be charged with breaking the law 15 different ways to walk away with only 1 conviction, even though a jury of his peers found him guilty of all 15. Maybe the law can change on what the legal definition is of bias but the moral definition never changes.
It is hard to be part of a charade of justice, left to wonder where the truth fits in. This has been very confusing for my non-legal mind, a mind that likes to search for the truth and see a logical flow, which leads eventually toward some kind of understanding. What confuses me is the appellate judges stating that the prosecutors conceded on all four bias counts while the prosecutors say they only conceded the one count where the law had changed.
Maybe there is no logical conclusion or truth to be found in these conflicting statements. Something that I have learned through these most difficult days, months and years, is that some mysteries are meant to be left unexplained, at least in this world. Maybe the point of all this was not to find truth or justice but rather to learn — to find knowledge, maybe even a tiny bit of wisdom.
We certainly do need laws to protect the vulnerable among us, to set the bar for minimal acceptable behavior in a society where there is order and not complete chaos. Laws to keep a society from becoming completely barbaric and chaotic. But sometimes when the system fails and there are no consequences for breaking the law we might just need to search deeper and hope for a higher standard of morals. Maybe moral issues are better served in the court of public opinion.
We all have the ability and inner power to control our actions and words. We can choose actions and words that are mean-spirited, evil and cruelly tear people down, trying to humiliate and destroy them. Or we can draw upon our inner strength and courage to choose words and actions that will encourage someone else, to build them up and support their growth. The ability to give life, hope and peace to another human being.
I hope that all who read this will remember Tyler and allow Tyler’s story to do a good work in them. I encourage everyone to move forward, not forgetting the past but rather remembering the past, maybe even because of the past learn to make smarter choices. What makes someone smart is not if they can get away with poor behavior but rather to display good character, kindness and respect in all the places and spaces one enters into, whether in person or in the electronic world.
Become an UpStander, someone who stands up and speaks out when they see someone being harassed and humiliated. Hold the people around you accountable for their words and actions. Let Tyler’s story help you to remember to choose your words and actions to build people up and encourage all their unique gifts and support the very essence of their being. Help to build a culture of kindness, respect and empathy all around us.
Let’s all work together to create a culture shift towards goodness and equality.
Jane Clementi is the founder of The Tyler Clementi Foundation.