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Suspects in Tyler Clementi case likely to avoid prison October 5, 2010

Posted by jefhenninger in News.
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Unless you live under a rock, you already know that Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi killed himself after fellow students Molly Wei and  Dharun Ravi streamed video of Clementi having a sexual encounter with another man over the Internet.  Wei and Ravi were both charged with invasion of privacy.  What really drives me nuts about this case is all the talk about how they can get 5 years in prison and how that is not enough.  What the public is not being told is that neither Wei and Ravi will do any prison time for the invasion of privacy charge.  I’m upset because I think the public is getting sold a load of BS by the media. 

New Jersey has a presumption against imprisonment for first offenders convicted of third and fourth degree crimes.  That means it is almost impossible for them to go to prison.  This is why the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office is doing everything they can to tack on the bias charge.  That would be a second degree charge that has a presumption of imprisonment which means it is almost 100% certain that they will go to prison.  I think that they are going to have a tough time bringing this charge against them although public pressure is immense for them to go to prison. 

The other issue that is not being discussed yet is whether or not the State has the evidence to convict them.  Since Clementi cannot testify, it will be difficult to impossible for the State to introduce any of his statements.  In addition, the jury may not be permitted to hear that Clementi committed suicide as it is not relevant to the charges.  I’m not even sure how a Court could use that as an aggravating factor in sentencing. 

This case clearly has the ability to create new case law in addition to new statutes.  The law does not always fit a case to produce a result that the public demands and this is certainly one of those cases.  The result was certainly tragic but hopefully, attention to the issues of bias, bullying, anti-gay prejudice and other issues can produce some good that will benefit many others for years to come.  I think the public deserves an honest discussion on the law, the evidence and the likely penalties if the two are convicted.  I think the outrage would be magnified if the public learned that, without a bias charge filed against them, Wei and Ravi may never see one day in prison.