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Rutgers Webcam Defendant Dharun Ravi 'Sorry About Tyler'

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The former Rutgers University student convicted last week in the webcam spying case that ended in his gay roommate's suicide said in an interview that he was insensitive but not biased.

"I didn't act out of hate and I wasn't uncomfortable with Tyler being gay," Dharun Ravi told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

It was Ravi's first interview since the ordeal began Sept. 19, 2010, with Ravi using a webcam to view a snippet of Clementi's dorm-room liaison with another man, then tweeting about it: "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.

The next night, Sept. 22, Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge that connects New Jersey and New York City.

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 he faced, finding he invaded Clementi's privacy and tried to cover it up. More significantly, 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.

Before the case came 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," he said. "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 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.

Ravi is to be sentenced May 21.

Ravi said 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 and has been identified in court only by the initials M.B.

"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 Star-Ledger 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 said he's sad about his roommate's suicide.

"I'm very sorry about Tyler," he said. "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. I wanted to talk to his parents, but I was afraid. I didn't know what to say."

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Comments [8]

NABNYC does not appear to be conversant with the actual crimes committed.

Ravi was not charged with contributing to the suicide of Mr. Clementi.

He was charged with, and convicted of, invasion of privacy, tampering with evidence and witnesses, and bias intimidation.

The invasion of privacy and evidence and witness tampering were slam-dunks; videotaping and streaming over the internet someone's intimate activities in their own home is a crime, as is deleting text evidence and trying to get witnesses to lie. Ravi admitted doing all these. (Hiding in a closet, taking photos and publishing them would also have been a crime, by the way.)

The only possible question was bias, and the jury found that Ravi did not intend to intimidate Mr. Clementi on the first night he videotaped him, but that Mr. Clementi believed he was targeted because he was gay, and Ravi knew Mr. Clementi would feel intimidated by his actions.

Mar. 22 2012 05:33 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

Also, didn't he initially say he disabled the webcam, the second time? Now he's saying he pointed it away. Is this the same, or is his story changing? There's no evidence to support either claim.

Mar. 22 2012 04:26 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

...to humiliate the actors by invading their privacy.

Mar. 22 2012 04:09 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

Apparently, Ravi invited others to join in on the invasion of Tyler and M.B.'s privacy, because of what they were doing, which was homosexual. He thought it appropriate to mock and expose this act, and to humiliate the actors.

Mar. 22 2012 04:06 PM
rosa from White Plains

Elena, I disagree with you and agree with Jack.

Since the evidence painted him in such a poor light, he should have taken the stand to let the jury for who he truly is: a (stupid) kid who made terrible choices but who did not have the intent for such a tragic outcome.

Ravi's defense attorney made a lousy job. Taking his case to the public now makes little difference.

Mar. 22 2012 03:29 PM

Jack, if Ravi had taken the stand, he would have been subject to cross-examination and possibly doing his case more harm, despite his innocence of SOME of the charges. Responsible attorneys would have advised him against offering testimony.

Mar. 22 2012 02:59 PM
NABNYC from SoCal

This is an absurd prosecution, a gross over-reaching by the police state, and an inexcusable waste of public resources. Get a grip, folks. The defendant communicated to others that his roommate was gay. With or without the video, that is the essence of the offense. The roommate was so terrified of being outed (to a hostile and sometimes unforgiving world) that he killed himself. But the roommate did not cause the death.

Disclosing that another person is gay, or is having an affair, or has a fat ass or a small d*ck is not the type of conduct that we can reasonably say was intended to cause great bodily injury or death. We can't even say those actions forseeably would bring about great bodily injury or death. They will certainly make someone else embarrassed. Perhaps humiliated. Like what happens on reality TV every single day. Like what happens in most workplaces, in the tabloids. Even the government is looking at our private parts before we board an airplane, and we know the workers are making cruel jokes about our bodies. This type of conduct is offensive, but it is not criminal.

If I said Mitt Romney has sex in magic underwear, through a sheet (maybe it's true, maybe not) it would presumably be embarrassing to him to have someone publicly speculating about his sex life. But it's not criminal to do so. And it should not be criminal. Even if I got a picture of him in the act, showing the picture is not criminal. If I burglarized the place to acquire it, that would be. But the young man who was gay shared a room, and unfortunately his roommate has free use of the entire room, which includes taking pictures. He could have hidden in the closet and taken photos, so what is the difference if he planted a video camera? None at all.

Granted, the young man's privacy was invaded. He, or his survivors, could sue in civil court for a private wrong. What is the damage? You need to be able to quantify a damage claim in civil court with some certainty. He is embarrassed to have people learn he is gay? Okay. That's not really compensable. Wanting to stay in the closet may be understandable, but if someone else opens the door, and what they say is truthful, it's not compensable damage. Embarrassment? How much is that worth? I have a hard time saying that disclosing that someone is gay should be compensable on any level, since it suggests that being gay is a bad thing, or is disgraceful.

I hope his attorneys appeal, and I hope the case gets thrown out. I feel very sorry for this young man who committed suicide and for his family. But the solution is not hypocritical criminal cases brought against teenagers for being stupid and crude, building more prisons for college kids. The solution is to change society so that young people no longer see suicide as a better alternative than having the public know their sexual preference.

Mar. 22 2012 01:09 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

then you should have taken the stand and said so Mr. Ravi. The jury might then have had a reason not to convict you on the bias intimidation charge.

Mar. 22 2012 11:55 AM

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