Precedent Set in New Jersey Cyberbullying Case
The sentencing for an ex-Rutgers student accused of videotaping his roommate in their college dorm took place last week. Prosecutors allege that the taping led to his roommate’s suicide.
The ex-Rutgers student, Dharun Ravi, faced up to 10 years in prison for his alleged crimes, but he was sentenced to 30 days. He must also serve 300 hours of community service and pay a $10,000 fine. Many legal experts see this case as setting the precedent for future electronic spying cases.
The student was convicted of anti-gay intimidation, invasion of privacy and several other crimes. He used his webcam to videotape his roommate kissing another man. After the taping, in September 2010, the roommate committed suicide.
The key result from this case is that electronic harassment does have consequences, including legal consequences. The criminal charges this student faced carried very serious consequences that he learned during his sentencing.
“Cyberbullies,” or individuals who intimidate or bully others using any type of media, are becoming more common with the increasing use of technology by teens and young adults. Individuals who have or may engage in this behavior need to be aware of the potential consequences of their actions. Cyberbullying carries with it a greater consequence than face-to-face bullying because there is a record of it that can be published to thousands of individuals.
There has been a split in reactions to the sentence. Many think it is not steep enough, that the punishment should have been used to set an example to deter future online bullying. Others think that the punishment is just right. These supporters know how easy it is to invade someone’s privacy in the age of the immediate sharing on Facebook or Twitter without having a concept of the long term consequences. They believe sentencing the student to the max would not set the right tone to help prevent students from doing this in the future.
Source: USA Today, “Ex-Rutgers Student Sentenced in Webcam Spy Case“, Natalie DiBlasio and Elizabeth Weise, May 21, 2012