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US webcam spying: Dharun Ravi apologises


Updated: May 30, 2012, 9:48 AM IST
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US webcam spying: Dharun Ravi apologises
Dharun Ravi, 20, also said he will begin serving a 30-day jail term on Thursday even though he doesn't have to.

Trenton: An Indian-born former Rutgers University student criticised by a judge for refusing to apologise for using a webcam to spy on his male roommate kissing another man days before the roommate killed himself apologised on Tuesday and said he has accepted responsibility for what he did.

Dharun Ravi, 20, also said he will begin serving a 30-day jail term on Thursday even though he doesn't have to.

Through a lawyer, Ravi issued his most contrite public statement yet in a case that made him a symbol of what his family called an overzealous prosecution and that made his roommate, Tyler Clementi, a prime example of what gay rights advocates said were the consequences of bullying.

"I accept responsibility for and regret my thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices that I made on Sept. 19, 2010, and Sept. 21, 2010," Ravi said in his statement. "My behaviour and actions, which at no time were motivated by hate, bigotry, prejudice or desire to hurt, humiliate or embarrass anyone, were nonetheless the wrong choices and decisions. I apologise to everyone affected by those choices."

After spending two days repeatedly looking at the Twitter feed on which Ravi announced "I saw him making out with a dude. Yay," Clementi, a shy, talented violinist, threw himself from New York City's George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010.

In March, a jury convicted Ravi of all 15 criminal counts with which he was charged, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. On two of the intimidation counts, he faced up to 10 years in state prison.

Last week, a judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail beginning May 31. Because the sentence is less than a year, it decreases the chances that federal immigration authorities will seek to have Ravi deported to India, where he was born and remains a citizen.

Prosecutors, finding the sentence too lenient, said they would appeal.

Ravi's lawyers have said they expect to appeal the convictions entirely. They say that he was not hateful and that authorities charged him with such serious crimes because of Clementi's suicide even though he was not charged with the 18-year-old's death.

Ravi could have remained free during the appeal but instead is volunteering to head to jail in New Jersey.

"It's the only way I can go on with my life," he said in the statement.

The apology comes as a reversal in course for Ravi, whose story inspired hundreds of people to rally at New Jersey's State House calling for no prison time and changes in the state's hate crime laws.

When Ravi was sentenced last month, Judge Glenn Berman chastised him for not apologising for his actions.

"I heard this jury say 'guilty' 288 times," Berman said, referring to all the sub-parts of the charges Ravi faced repeated 12 times, once for each juror. "And I haven't heard you apologise once."

During the court proceeding, Ravi, who had said in March in a newspaper interview that he was "very sorry about Tyler," chose not to address the judge, though he cried as his mother pleaded for mercy from the judge.

He told Newark's The Star-Ledger newspaper in an interview conducted before the sentencing but published afterward that he did not want to say he was sorry during the sentencing because he thought it would sound insincere.

During the sentencing, Clementi's brother James Clementi said that hearing an apology that late from Ravi would not be meaningful to him.

On Tuesday, the state's largest gay rights group, Garden State Equality, said it was happy Ravi had publicly apologised. But Chairman Steven Goldstein said the group was questioning the timing of the apology.

Garden State Equality has said Ravi deserves more jail time than he received but "nowhere near" the maximum sentence he could have received.

"We have said that our hearts would be open to an apology had Ravi opened his heart up to us all," Mr Goldstein said. "He could have apologised in a way that would not have compromised his legal position. But he came across to many of us as unremorseful both before the trial and in engineered media appearances after the verdict."

Dharun Ravi, 20, also said he will begin serving a 30-day jail term on Thursday even though he doesn't have to.

First Published: May 30, 2012, 9:48 AM IST
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