TRENTON, N.J. — A former Rutgers University student openly apologized for the first time on Tuesday for using a webcam to spy on a romantic liaison between a man and a roommate who later killed himself, saying he regrets his “thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices.”
Dharun Ravi, who had been criticized by a judge for not showing remorse and for refusing to say he was sorry, 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 behavior 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 apologize 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 Sept. 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. 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, 20, could have remained free during the appeal but instead is volunteering to head to the Middlesex County Jail in New Brunswick.
“It’s the only way I can go on with my life,” he said in the statement.
The apology comes as a sharp 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, Judge Glenn Berman chastised him for not apologizing for his actions.
“I heard this jury say ‘guilty’ 288 times,” the judge 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 apologize 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 for him.
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 apologized. But Chairman Steven Goldstein said the group was questioning the timing of the apology.
“We have mixed emotions, and so rather than take an organizational stance just yet, we have posited the question to our members on (the group’s) Facebook page to ask what they think,” Goldstein said.
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,” Goldstein said. “He could have apologized 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.”