PAULSBORO, N.J. – 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."