An Indian-origin boy convicted of a hate crime for spying on his gay roommate, who later committed suicide, has said he acted in an immature manner when he watched the fellow student's sexual encounter with another man on a webcam, but insisted that he had not intimidated him.
Dharun Ravi, 20, had been found guilty by a jury of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy charges after a three-week long trial. He could face up to 10 years in prison and eventual deportation to India when sentenced on May 21.
Ravi, who did not take the witness stand in his trial, told the 'New Jersey Star Ledger', that he acted in an immature manner two years ago when he spied on his Rutgers
roommate Tyler Clementi and did some stupid things as an 18-year old.
He says he was insensitive to Clementi's feelings.
"I am 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. I wanted to talk to his parents, but I was afraid. I didn't know what to say," he said.
Ravi described Clementi as a very quiet guy with whom "every conversation just hit a dead end."
He says he is not the same person he was two years ago, the time when the incident unfolded in September 2010. Clementi's suicide sparked a nationwide debate on
cyber-bullying and the society's treatment of young gays and lesbians.
"I don't even recognise the person I was two years ago," he says. "But I wasn't biased. I didn't act out of hate and I wasn't uncomfortable with Tyler being gay."
Ravi says the guilty verdict will not stop him or his family from continuing their fight to prove that he did not commit a hate crime.
"The verdict actually made me feel energised," he said. "We (his family, friends and attorneys) will keep going."
The young man, who has lived in America since he was four, says he has never been uncomfortable with gay people and had known a few gays.
"Now there is a verdict out there that says I hate gays. The jury has decided they know what is going on in my mind; they can tell you what you think," he said.
Ravi had turned down a plea deal that would have kept him out of jail but would have required him to admit he had intimidated Clementi, a charge he has emphatically denied throughout his trial.
"I am 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," he said.
Ravi says he was sceptical about Clementi's partner MB, who looked "shady" to him.
He says if Clementi had been with a girl who "looked as strange as MB, I would have done the same thing", adding that when the police had come to him after Clementi went missing, he thought it had something to do with MB.
As Ravi awaits his verdict, he says he regrets that Clementi did not see his text message in which he had apologised for his behaviour.
Clementi wrote on his Facebook page that he was jumping off the George Washington Bridge just about the same time Ravi had sent him a text message apologising for hurting his feelings.
"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 said.