Ex-Rutgers Student: I Wasn’t Reason for Suicide
PLAINSBORO, N.J. (AP) - The former Rutgers University student convicted in a webcam spying case says that he was insensitive toward his gay roommate but not biased, and that he doesn’t think he was the reason for his roommate’s suicide.
Dharun Ravi, 20, was convicted last week of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime, after using a webcam to view a snippet of Tyler Clementi’s dorm-room liaison with another man, then tweeting about it. The case gained huge attention when Clementi threw himself off a bridge.
"I didn’t act out of hate, and I wasn’t uncomfortable with Tyler being gay," Dharun Ravi told The Star-Ledger of Newark in his first media interview since the saga began in September 2010.
Ravi also gave an interview to ABC News’ "20/20" that’s to be broadcast Friday night. He told the news show he is sad about the suicide but doesn’t believe it was spawned by his actions.
"The more and more I found out, it would be kind of obnoxious of me to think that I could have this profound effect on him," Ravi told ABC. "After all this time and reading his conversations and how and what he was doing before, I really don’t think he cared at all. I feel like I was an insignificant part to his life. That’s giving me comfort now."
In Ravi’s trial, there was evidence that Clementi, 18, had visited Ravi’s Twitter page repeatedly in the two days before his death.
A jury convicted Ravi of all 15 counts, finding he invaded Clementi’s privacy and tried to cover it up. More significant, he was convicted of bias intimidation, a charge that required jurors to find that he acted out of malice against gays - or that Clementi reasonably believed he did.
The jury found on all four bias counts that Clementi reasonably believed he was targeted because of his sexual orientation. It found that Ravi was knowingly intimidating him on three counts and purposefully doing it on two.
The maximum sentence for the two most serious bias intimidation convictions is 10 years in prison. Prosecutors may ask for consecutive sentences, but it would be unusual for such a request to be granted.
Before the case went to trial, prosecutors offered Ravi a plea deal that would have called for no jail time.
"I’m never going to regret not taking the plea," Ravi told The Star-Ledger. "If I took the plea, I would have had to testify that I did what I did to intimidate Tyler and that would be a lie. I won’t ever get up there and tell the world I hated Tyler because he was gay, or tell the world I was trying to hurt or intimidate him because it’s not true."
The ordeal began Sept. 19, 2010, when Ravi remotely viewed part of an encounter between Clementi and a man who’s been identified only as M.B. He later tweeted, "I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."
He told friends two days later that they could see streaming live video that night when Tyler was going to have his guest over again.
That second webcast never happened. On Sept. 22, Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey and New York City.
Ravi told The Star-Ledger he initially turned on his webcam from a friend’s computer because he was concerned about the looks of Tyler’s guest, who was 30 at the time.
"If it was a girl who came to the room and she looked as strange as M.B., I would have done the same thing," he said.
The 20-year-old told the newspaper that he didn’t think about what the spying would mean to his roommate. "I know that’s wrong," he said, "but that’s the truth."
He also said he decided not to go through with the spying on the night he told friends about it, saying he pointed his webcam away from his bed.
Prosecutors told jurors that it wasn’t Ravi who derailed the spying - but rather Clementi, who unplugged the computer.
He also said he wanted to talk with Clementi’s family but didn’t know what to say.
"I’m very sorry about Tyler," he told the newspaper. "I have parents and a little brother, and I can only try to imagine how they feel. But I want the Clementis to know I had no problem with their son. I didn’t hate Tyler, and I knew he was OK with me."
Ravi is to be sentenced May 21.