Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pine Boxes and Steel Cages

In a New Brunswick courtroom yesterday afternoon the Hon. Glenn Berman sentenced Dharun Ravi to thirty days in jail secondary to the conviction on fifteen counts secondary to the suicide of his then-roommate Tyler Clementi shortly after the start of the fall semester a couple of Septembers ago. Among the fifteen counts on which a Middlesex County jury convicted Ravi earlier this year were two counts of second-degree bias intimidation charges for which a jail sentence is presumed.

I have done no criminal defense work at all since I was a baby lawyer so I do not presume to know whether an appeal is forthcoming although I expect it is. Judge Berman ordered Ravi to report to the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center in North Brunswick on May 31. He is twenty years old. Barring him receiving relief in the appellate courts, he shall live the remainder of his natural life with the words "Convicted Felon" figuratively stamped across his forehead.

Ravi and Clementi were but eighteen years old during the brief and ultimately tragic period of time in which they were roommates at Rutgers University. Presuming their room at RU was anything close to those in which I lived at CU-Boulder the two years I lived on campus, "spacious" is not likely a word one would use to describe their living quarters. Yet, in spite of the physical closeness in which they resided and in spite of the seemingly endless methods with which technology has enabled humans to communicate with one another, they apparently either could not or would not do so.

My sister Sigrid had something posted on her Facebook page yesterday that caught my eye and although its point of reference is a child half the age of the two actors involved in this affair, which sadness has no measurable depth, it nevertheless seemed fitting to me somehow to poach for today's piece:

As eighteen-year-old men-children Messrs. Clementi and Ravi had all those tools at their disposal as well. And at day's end they could not even talk to one another face-to-face. Instead a situation festered that resulted in the ending of one life, the derailment of another and the destruction of not one but two families.

Pine boxes and steel cages. Each is a place where a parent hopes never to find his or her child. In the case of the Clementi and the Ravi families, theirs is a hope denied.


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