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Dharun Ravi’s Crime Within A Crime?

What’s happening already in the Dharun Ravi trial is a textbook example of why I’m so much against ‘hate crime laws’ in this country. Bias intimidation, hate crime, is a punishment beyond the crime itself and delves into the intent behind a crime. In other words, thought police. If a man hits me over the head with a brick because he wants my money, it’s one level of crime. If a man hits me over the head with a brick because he doesn’t like white people, it’s a more serious crime with more serious punishment. Meanwhile, my head has bled just as much and the number of stitches it took to close the wound is identical. If Dharun Ravi invaded Tyler Clementi’s privacy by setting up a webcam and spying on him because he was worried about a strange looking, scruffy, older person not appearing to be a student being in his dorm room as has been testified to in trial already, that would leave out bias intimidation and the most serious of the charges and a potential 10 year prison term would be off the table. However if he did the exact same thing because Tyler was gay, bias intimidation is in play and so is the 10 years.

The crime is the crime. The thought behind it should not be.

It’s a scary time in American justice that we now punish people for their opinion. It used to be in America we were allowed to have an unpopular opinion, as long we didn’t act on it and commit crimes. Now, if you commit the crime, the opinion behind it is a separate criminal act as well. How did we come to accept this? And how long can it be before we make the mistake of deciding that even the opinion WITHOUT having committed any other crime is just too dangerous and filled with too much potential harm and thus will be a punishable crime itself? It doesn’t take a terrible amount of imagination to see this happening.

Dharun Ravi is a jerk. He should be punished. But he should be punished for his actions and not his ideas, whatever they were.

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