Dharun Ravi definitely acted illegally by spying on roommate Tyler Clementi and broadcasting it over Twitter. But the punishment he faces—up to 10 years in prison—is "out of whack … for a 20-year-old who'd never been in legal trouble before," argues Emily Bazelon in the New York Times. That's because prosecutors charged him with a hate crime normally reserved for violent offenders. "The idea of shielding vulnerable groups is well intentioned," she says, but "this isn't what civil rights laws should be for."
Teens have been charged with hate crimes before, but always as minors safe from harsh punishment. Ravi is 18, technically an adult, "but he did things that reek of immature homophobia," Bazelon argues. "The spying he did was criminal, but it was also, as his lawyer put it, 'stupid kid' behavior." These laws need to be rewritten "so that he's not the first of many stupid but nonviolent young people who pay a too-heavy price for our fears" about cyberbullying. For Bazelon's full breakdown of what Ravi's verdict means, click here. (Read more Dharun Ravi stories.)