Well, Bullying has hit the news again and, once again, this Boston criminal lawyer was asked to comment. On Friday, I was interviewed for Newsweek Magazine on the subject of the indictments handed down against Dharun Ravi (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). If you like, you can read the resulting article here.
As you may recall, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi (hereinafter, the “Deceased”) committed suicide approximately seven months ago. Said suicide followed the Defendant, with the help of some friends, allegedly streaming live video footage of the Deceased, his roommate, engaging in romance with his lover, another man. The Defendant was allegedly aided in the broadcast by his lady-friend, Molly Wei (hereinafter, the “Accomplice”). During the broadcast, the Defendant allegedly described what was being broadcast on Twitter.
Criminal investigators have also apparently found that the Defendant had tweeted on earlier occasions his frustration and/or maliciousness about the Deceased’s homosexuality. As a result, New Jersey prosecutors say that the Defendant knowingly targeted the Deceased because he was gay.
Apparently, this was not bad enough. During the government’s investigation, it is alleged that the Defendant tried to mislead law enforcement, deleted messages and attempted to convince some of his friends not to cooperate with authorities.
These efforts did not work. They seldom do. They usually only result in more charges…which they did here.
Now, the Garden State has indicted the Defendant on 15 counts, including witness and evidence tampering and bias intimidation. The matter has been elevated to a hate crime.
While the Defendant faces a possible 10 years in prison, evidence against the Accomplice was apparently not even presented to the Grand Jury.
I am not an expert on New Jersey criminal practice. However, I have been a Boston – Cambridge criminal defense attorney for approximately 20 years. And, over the last few years, I have seen how allegations of MA bullying have become highlighted as a special offense. Of course, this time, the allegations are particularly media-worthy because of the nature of the potential bullying acts.
Were this case prosecuted here, this would indeed be a case for a MA hate crimes defense attorney. In other words, a defense attorney with experience in handling hate crimes cases as well as allegations of Massachusetts criminal conspiracies that occur between college students.
Given the allegations of the previous tweets and/or texts, there is no question that the Commonwealth would prosecute this matter as a hate crime. However, it is worth noting that it does not take very much for that to happen. Today, it is very “in” to prosecute cases as hate crimes because it demonstrates moral superiority on the part of the office of the District Attorney. As with most “tough on crime” stances, it is designed to communicate that the political prosecutor will not tolerate the victimization of the weak.
In reality, it is yet another example of a jurisdiction’s smoke and mirrors. It merely prosecutes acts which are already illegal as being more illegal because of the thought behind the deed. It is ironic to note that it is not illegal to be homophobic, racist, sexist, etc. In fact, one of the celebrated rights that we cherish is freedom of thought…not to mention freedom of speech.
Moreover, one must wonder if many crime victims really care why they were victimized. The fact is that they were victimized.
However, in making this matter a celebrated hate crimes case, the prosecution is able to make an “example” of the young human being who seems to have done, under anyone’s definition, a bad thing. With tragic…and I would bet unintended results.
Being as this was allegedly a conspiracy, each person involved in said plot is responsible with everyone else who aided the conspiracy. Yet, Accomplice seems to be skating by unscathed.
Interesting. A cooperating witness? Could be.
If so, it would appear that she is not the only potential witness against the Defendant who may have once been a friend. After all, the police had to have gotten evidence of the Defendant’s alleged “cover-up” from somebody.
No, the Defendant did not do himself any favors assuming the allegations are true about his actions during the investigation. There are right ways and wrong ways to try to protect yourself. Wrong ways include trying to destroy evidence (which may not be as destructible as you might think) and trying to tailor what people tell investigators. The latter is the MA felony, by the way, of Intimidation Of A Witness.
The right way is to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney to advise and represent you. He or she will know what is, and is not, a “criminal justice no-no”. Expensive? In money, perhaps. But it can save you alot of time behind bars.
If you are facing criminal charges and would like to consult me, please free to call me at 617-492-3000 to arrange a free initial consultation..
To view the article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/04/21/earlyshow/main20056018.shtml