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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cyber bullying Conviction Reversed

A New Jersey appellate division last week reversed and vacated the felony conviction of a Rutgers University student in connection with cyber bullying alleged to have caused the suicide of another Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi.

I wrote about this travesty of justice several times over the past several years. The suicide itself is a tragedy. However, that tragedy did not justify the three acts of appallingly poor judgment which followed.

First, the Clementi family jumped on the victim bandwagon. Grief is understandable. Trying to ruin another's reputation to atone for one's guilt at fear of somehow missing the signals of a suicidal or self-harming mind is not acceptable.

Second, Middlesex County prosecutors used this case to demonstrate their virtue. This is an inappropriate use of prosecutorial resources and smacks of a political or social justice vendetta. The proper aim of prosecutors is to exercise the power of the state to deter and punish crime. Yet here, the crime was hardly discernible and indeed there is no ruled to be no crime. But even if there were a crime, prosecutors failed to exercise good judgment in blatantly overlooking the following core facts:

1. dorm mate Dharun Ravi recorded acts occurring within his own room,

2. The reasonable person understandably might have been upset or even revolted from an epidemological point of view, that being the reasonable point of view to anyone having to live in a shared space, and

3. In a shared space, the concept of privacy must adapt to the concept best described by the plural pronoun "our," not the singular pronoun "my."

This prosecution either ignored the concept of a shared space, or worse, it struck a chord for a preferential right for one student based upon his apparent sexual preference (demonstrated on only one occasion), and a disfavoring or subordination of the privacy and other rights of another student who, apparently, did not share the same preference.

It is hard to square this prosecution with a fundamental respect for equal rights under the law.

Finally, these same critiques must be laid at the feet of New Jersey legislators. They enacted a law but failed to consider (or counted on the liberal courts to uphold) the flawed constitutionality and legality of the statute. The legislative function when properly exercised, does not invite or encourage the abdication of its own judgment and "kick the can down the road" to the judiciary.

Here, it seems politics reigned supreme. Dharun Ravi spent some time in jail and got his reputation severely harmed, as he is collateral cannon fodder in this sordid social justice debate.

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