The threshold for what constitutes a hate crime continues to decline.
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Ravi was convicted of “bias intimidation,” which carries with it a possible sentence of 10 years in prison. The jury concluded that Ravi had not knowingly or purposely intimidated Clementi or his partner when he watched the first time. But it found him guilty of the charge because Clementi could have “reasonably believed” he had been made a target because he was gay, which in New Jersey is sufficient to get a hate crime conviction.
We will probably never know why Clementi jumped to his death. He may have been contemplating suicide long before he met Ravi. He had files on his computer with titles such as “Why does it have to be so painful,” and he had taken photos of the George Washington Bridge before he entered Rutgers.
What’s more, if Clementi felt intimidated by Ravi and his webcam, why did he have another hook up in his room a few days after the webcam incident? And why did he tell a friend that he wasn’t really bothered by what Ravi had seen in the viewing? Ravi was wrong to record Clementi without his knowledge. But it seems unlikely that Ravi was guilty of much more than being an insensitive jerk.
The only thing we know with anything close to certainty is that Ravi doesn’t hate gays. Several character witnesses testified that Ravi was not biased against gay people. And the prosecution couldn’t produce anyone who had ever heard Ravi express hostile feelings about homosexuality or homosexuals.
In an email to Clementi minutes after he jumped to his death, Ravi wrote, “I’ve known you were gay and I have no problem with it. In fact one of my closest friends is gay and he and I have a very open relationship.”
Ravi rejected plea deals because they would have required him to admit to bias intimidation. His lawyers said he simply did not believe he had committed a hate crime. In an interview several days after his conviction Ravi admitted to saying some insensitive things about Clement. But he insisted:
“I wasn’t biased. I didn’t act out of hate and I wasn’t uncomfortable with Tyler being gay.… I’m never going to regre not taking the plea.… If I took the plea, I would have had to testify that I did what I did to intimidate Tyler and that would be a lie. I won’t ever get up there and tell the world I hated Tyler because he was gay, or tell the world I was trying to hurt or intimidate him because it’s not true.”
Proving that a crime was committed out of hatred for the victim is nearly impossible, thus it has become increasingly irrelevant. Today, all that’s needed for a hate crime conviction is for the victim to be a member of one of the left’s pet constituencies.
Daniel Allot is senior writer at American Values.
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