In his first interview since being convicted on fifteen charges last week, Dharun Ravi has denied acting out of homophobic hatred, and has said that he never felt uncomfortable with Tyler Clementi’s sexuality.
Tyler Clementi, a student from Rutgers University, New Jersey, jumped from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010, allegedly after Mr Ravi filmed him kissing an older man, and streamed it on the internet. Mr Ravi was found guilty on all 15 counts last week, including bias intimidation, tampering evidence and hindering apprehension.
Speaking to The Star-Ledger, a local newspaper in New Jersey, Mr Ravi said that he was very sorry about Mr Clementi, who was 18 when he died. “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.”
Mr Ravi also expressed frustration that Mr Clementi never got his 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.
The case and the judgement have both divided public opinion in America. Noting that Mr Ravi acknowledged the mistakes on his part, The Star-Ledger published an editorial suggesting that the ruling last week went too far. Support has also come from those quarters that feel that, not being a naturalised US citizen, he might be deported to India, despite having spent most of his life in America. Meanwhile, the issue has also brought to light the thorny issue of homophobia amidst the Indian-American community in the US.
The Clementi family, on the other hand, has welcomed the ruling as correct and just. “In this digital world, we need to teach our youngsters that their actions have consequences, that their words have real power to hurt or to help,” Jane Clementi, the mother of Tyler, has said in a statement. “They must be encouraged to choose to build people up and not tear them down,” she added.
Sentencing for the case, as a result of which Mr Ravi could face 10 years in prison, is set for May 21.