Rutgers Trial: The Political Firestorm Before the Indictment

John Farmer, dean of Rutgers Law School and former NJ Attorney General, offers this: "The internet and the 24/7 news cycle have combined in many cases to obliterate the presumption of innocence. In cases like the Duke lacrosse team alleged rape, the Jason Williams alleged aggravated manslaughter, and the world bank executive's alleged rape, the firestorm of condemnation has raged with little regard for truth or justice. It challenges the most seasoned prosecutor's commitment to fairness."

In November 2010, The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate by Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). In addition to requiring all colleges that receive federal aid to amend their harassment policies, the new law would provide funding to help schools start anti-bullying programs on campus.

On the same day DeGeneres spoke up, The Star-Ledger weighed in with an editorial, entitled, "An Unnatural Death: And a Reason for New Resolve Against Bigotry"

"We don't know with certainty what drove Clementi off that bridge, but we know he was a gay man who was treated like a circus animal, his sexual life treated like a curiosity.

"There are millions more young gay people across this country, many of them living phony lives so that they can escape the bigotry, or least sidestep it for a while. On behalf of those kids, we need to resolve to cleanse our society of this prejudice once and for all. … "

On Oct. 4, the prosecutor Kaplan stated that he did not think there would be enough evidence to charge Ravi and Wei with a hate crime. He would later change his mind.

The storm quelled until April 20, 2011 at 9:44 a.m., when it struck with full fury.

In addition to the invasion of privacy charges, an indictment handed up by a Middlesex County grand jury added three bias intimidation charges (hate crimes). The indictment against Ravi also contained charges that Ravi tampered with evidence and a witness, and tried to hindered his own apprehension .

New Jersey State Attorney General Paula Dow offered her praise: "This indictment is an important step in this heartbreaking case. New Jersey's bias law recognizes the terrible harm caused by acts of bigotry and hatred and imposes harsher punishment on those who commit such crimes."

Three weeks later, it was learned Molly Wei had entered into a plea deal and was cooperating with authorities. A judge in New Brunswick granted Wei's request for admittance into a pretrial probationary program that would lead to dismissal of all charges against her in the high-profile case. Wei agreed to get counseling, perform 300 hours of community service and testify against Ravi at the trial.

Six months later, on Nov. 28, 2011, Middlesex County Prosecutor Julia McClure offered Ravi a plea deal that would have spared Ravi prison time. Ravi rejected it.

"Why did he reject the plea?" Ravi's attorney, Steven Altman, was asked after the hearing. "He's innocent. He's not guilty. That's why he rejected the plea."

A lengthy New Yorker piece last February shifted the tectonics of the Tyler Clementi discussion. Author Ian Parker waded through stacks of court documents and for the first time interviewed friends of Ravi's family, as well as Rutgers students.

His piece turned a thus far simplistic story into one that was complicated and nuanced. He debunked several of the myths and inaccuracies that clung to the story. A shouting match was transformed into reasonable discourse.

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