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Hate crime redefined? Judge sees no hate in Rutgers webcam spy case

Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days jail for using a webcam to spy on a gay college roommate. He could have received 10 years. But the judge said  "I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi."

Dharun Ravi sits in court during his sentencing in New Brunswick, N.J., Monday, May 21, 2012. Ravi, a former Rutgers University student was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail and three years of probation.

(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

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A week before Dharun Ravi was sentenced to jail for using a webcam to spy on a gay college roommate who later killed himself, supporters rallied behind him, arguing that New Jersey laws should be changed so that someone in his situation could not be found guilty of a hate crime.

In sentencing Ravi to 30 days in jail when he could have gotten years, the judge said he does not consider the case a hate crime, even though the most serious charge, bias intimidation, is the legal name for what most people — and legislators who have endorsed laws on the issue — call a hate crime.

"I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi," Judge Glen Berman said Monday. "He had no reason to, but I do believe he acted out of colossal insensitivity."

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The dramatic and emotional saga reignited, in practical terms, some questions where philosophy eclipses law: What is hate, and how can it be a crime?

In this case, Clementi and Ravi were assigned at random to be roommates in their first year at Rutgers, New Jersey's flagship public university, in the fall of 2010. By all evidence, they hardly talked. But Ravi told friends his roommate was gay — and he wasn't happy about it.

On Sept. 19, Clementi asked Ravi to leave the room to make space for a guest.


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