The former Rutgers University student who was found guilty of hate crimes for spying on his freshman roommate insists that he's innocent. In an exclusive interview with the Star-Ledger, Dharun Ravi said he was definitely stupid for setting up his webcam to watch Tyler Clementi and Clementi's male guest during intimate encounters, but "I wasn’t biased. I didn’t act out of hate and I wasn’t uncomfortable with Tyler being gay."
In September 2010, Ravi had set up a webcam in the dorm room he shared with roommate Tyler Clementi and and viewed Clementi and Clementi's guest during intimate encounters, sometimes sharing a link to view the livestream via Twitter. Clementi killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge the day after the second time he was filmed. While prosecutors have portrayed Ravi as homophobic, his lawyer and the witnesses speaking on his behalf said he was not homophobic, instead claiming he was simply acting immaturely. But jurors agreed with prosecutors, finding that Ravi invaded Clementi's and his guest's privacy twice and meant to intimidate Clementi when he spied a second time.
Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison, because of the hate crime charges, but he is going to appeal, "The verdict actually made me feel energized. We (his family, friends and attorneys) will keep going." He also added, "I'm never going to regret not taking the plea. 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 plea deal included no jail time and help from prosecutors to avoid deportation (he is a citizen of India) but federal officials consider guilty pleas like convictions.
The now 20-year-old said he "never thought [Clementi] would find out" and didn't want to hurt him, "I figured I would tell him later and we would laugh about it." Ravi also said, "One of the most frustrating parts is that he never got my apology. I texted an apology and when he didn’t answer, I e-mailed him. I told him I didn’t want him to feel pressure to have to move and that we could work things out." He also was emphatic about feeling that Clementi's guest was sketchy, because when Clementi was missing, "I thought it was something sinister, that maybe he got mixed up with the wrong guy. I told one of my friends, ‘I wish I recorded (the first incident, on Sept. 19) so I would have an image of the guy (M.B.) to give to the police."
Ravi does feel regret about one thing, "I'm very sorry about Tyler. 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 okay with me."
Legal experts say that the conviction tests the "youth as defense" strategy: The NY Times reports:
The failure of the jerky-kid defense is likely to change the legal landscape by showing that jurors can conclude that young people who are sophisticated enough to spy on, insult and embarrass one another electronically are sophisticated enough to be held accountable.
The verdict showed that the notion of innocent youth as a shield to culpability might not hold as much sway as it once did in court, Marcellus A. McRae, a former federal prosecutor, said. “Jurors will say their kid or kids they know are more sophisticated than that,” Mr. McRae said. “For jurors, it doesn’t pass the common-sense test.”