Tyler Clementi Suicide: Was It a Hate Crime?

Sasha Brown-Worsham

The Rutgers students who broadcast Tyler Clementi's sexual encounter that ultimately led to his suicide may not be charged with a hate crime.

Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei live broadcast his sexual encounter with a man and the embarrassment caused the young man to leap to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

"Jumping off the gw bridge sorry," he posted on Facebook just before his suicide.

The case has sparked nationwide outrage from celebrities and politicians and was the fourth suicide in September that was linked to bullying based on sexual preference.

And yet, this is not a hate crime?

Ravi and Wei, both 18, are currently charged with invasion of privacy and cybersnooping, according to the New York Daily News. They are accused of using a hidden webcam to broadcast Clementi's same-sex dorm room rendezvous on the Internet.

They face five years in jail for the crime, but prosecutors say it will be hard to prosecute it as a hate crime.

"Sometimes the laws don't always adequately address the situation," Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan told the Newark Star-Ledger on Monday. "That may come to pass here."

But if I know it's a hate crime and you know it's a hate crime, why can't it be prosecuted as such?

Right now, a hate crime is defined by the FBI as:

A traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation." Hate itself is not a crime -- and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.

It may be hard to prove without evidence that Wei and Ravi would have behaved differently if the encounter had been heterosexual, which is why it's maddening.

It was humiliating because the private boy didn't want his personal life on the Internet, but was it also because he was gay? And was there an element of hate in that? Clearly the laws have not caught up to the technology. And perhaps if I were Ravi's and Wei's parents, I might feel differently.

But I'm not.

I will raise my children to be decent people, not pathetic, snivelling hate mongers. I would love to see these kids locked up until they're 110, but proving a hate crime in this case is going to be hard.

If they did do this because he was gay, then it's a hate crime. There must be friends who heard Ravi joke about Clementi's sexuality. There must be someone out there who heard Wei use the word "fag" or laugh about gays.

Is that enough evidence to prove a "hate crime"? Maybe not. But the message would be sent: intolerance in any form is hate and bullying, no matter what the reason, is never acceptable.

Do you think it should be a hate crime?


Image via Facebook.com


Read More