And yet, is Ravi really responsible for Clementi’s suicide? Legally, the only relevance of the suicide is whether it shows Clementi felt harassed for being gay. In reality, the suicide haunts everything; otherwise this would be a matter for the Rutgers resident advisers.
The problem is that justice is individual, whereas symbols are collective. Of course, judges “send a message” to would-be criminals all the time by disproportionately punishing the ones who get caught. But there’s a difference between sending a message and scapegoating. Whatever was going through Ravi’s head is no different from what millions of other 18-year-olds think, and feel, all the time—including, every jock I went to high school with. Those attitudes are indeed reprehensible. But Ravi is the one whose life now hangs in the balance, a scapegoat for all of us.