Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 15, 2012/ 21 Adar, 5772

On trial at Rutgers: Hate crime or thought crime?

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In a New Jersey courtroom on Monday, the defense rested in the trial of Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers freshman accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with an older man. The roommate, Tyler Clementi, later committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, and his death unleashed a national outcry about teenage bullying and antigay persecution.

Ravi is not charged with Clementi's death, yet he faces a possible 10 years in prison. The crimes he is being prosecuted for? Invasion of privacy, tampering with evidence, and what the New Jersey criminal code calls "bias intimidation'' — a hate crime. Without the bias charge, Ravi might be looking at three to five years for violating the Peeping Tom statute, using Twitter and text messages to tell people about it, and trying to cover his tracks when he got caught. But by tacking on a hate crime charge, a boorish dorm-room prank could end up putting Ravi away for the next decade of his life.

Hate crime laws — which intensify the penalty if a crime was motivated by bigotry against certain groups — have always been problematic. They amount to thought crime, cracking down on an offender with particular severity not because of his deeds, but because of his opinions. Yet since when is it the business of the state to sentence individuals to extra punishment because they hold views that are primitive or unfashionable?

In a nation dedicated to "equal justice under law'' — the words are carved on the fašade of the Supreme Court — the criminal code should not pick and choose among equal victims. Killers or armed robbers, embezzlers or Peeping Toms — criminals should be prosecuted with commitment and vigor no matter what their motivation was. It is immaterial to a victim, after all, whether his assailant is a bigot or a mafioso. It should be immaterial to our legal system, too.

New Jersey Prosecutor Julia McClure promised to prove that Ravi's actions — which in the end amounted to little more than watching Clementi kiss another man for a few seconds and later encouraging others to watch — were not only "mean-spirited,'' "malicious,'' and "criminal,'' but deliberately intended "to expose Tyler Clementi's sexual orientation.'' The jury will decide, of course. But will justice really be served if New Jersey succeeds in locking Ravi up for 10 years for, in essence, being an 18-year-old jerk? Yes, his webcam stunt was obnoxious and immature, the Newark Star-Ledger noted last week, but does it deserve "the same sentence we give to rapists, pedophiles and attempted murderers?''

Much of what people "know'' about this case turns out not to be true. Clementi wasn't outed by his roommate's actions, for example — he had come out before starting college and had already attended a meeting of the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian Alliance at Rutgers. There was no video of him having sex, let alone one posted on the Internet. Prosecution witnesses testified that Ravi was neither an antigay bigot nor motivated by hatred of his roommate. And even Clementi, discussing the incident with a friend from high school the next day, assumed that Ravi had been "just curious.''

But even if the worst rumors were true, that wouldn't change the great flaw of hate crime prosecutions. The criminal justice system should not concern itself with bad thoughts and pernicious attitudes, but with bad behavior and pernicious harms. The man who breaks your jaw because you are black or gay or Hindu should be punished as severely as the man who breaks it because you are socialist or a Yankees fan — or just because he's a thug seeking a thrill.

The flood of hate crime laws passed in recent years has added to prosecutors' leverage, but has it made society more just? "Proponents of the original bias crime laws said they meant to go after murderous plots by members of . . . hard-core hate groups,'' writes New York University law professor James Jacobs. "Now, bias crime prosecutions most often involve young defendants, frequently mixed-up teenagers, who commit low-level offenses like criminal mischief and simple assault, typically escalating from spontaneous altercations.''

Tyler Clementi's suicide was a tragedy. But threatening a 10-year sentence for his roommate's odious stunt with a webcam has far more to do with politics than with justice. And it reminds us, or should, that prosecuting people for their opinions is not the hallmark of a free society.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2010, Boston Globe

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles