Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi, convicted last week of a hate crime for spying on his gay roommate’s date, regrets his “dumb kid” actions, but told ABC News today that he takes “comfort” in the belief that his webcam peeking is not the reason Tyler Clementi jumped to his death.
Ravi, 20, of Plainsboro, N.J., spoke about the case just days after a New Jersey jury convicted him of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering and hindering arrest for using a webcam to peek at Clementi’s date in their college dorm room on Sept. 19, 2010 and encouraging others to spy during a second date, on Sept. 21, 2010.
Ravi was not charged in connection with Clementi’s death.
“Even though I wasn’t the one who caused him to jump off the bridge, I did do things wrong and I was stupid about a lot of stuff,” Ravi said in an exclusive broadcast interview with “20/20″ co-anchor Chris Cuomo.
Ravi, who was 18 at the time, was initially rattled by Clementi’s death, which the press depicted as the result of cyber bullying.
He asked himself, “Is this because of me?” Ravi told Cuomo.
But Ravi said that what he learned about his freshman roommate during the course of legal proceedings — including information that hasn’t been made public — convinced him that the 18-year-old took his life for reasons that didn’t have anything to do with Ravi and his webcam.
“The more and more I found out, it would be kind of obnoxious of me to think that I could have this profound effect on him,” Ravi said.
At another point he added, “After all this time and reading his conversations and how and what he was doing before, I really don’t think he cared at all. I feel like I was an insignificant part to his life. That’s giving me comfort now.”
Ravi also pointed out that Clementi left behind a note, and that its contents have never been made public.
“The fact that we weren’t allowed to read it, that they said it didn’t have anything to do with this, that gave me comfort also because I figured if it has nothing to do with me…it must have been something else that was going on,” he said.
“He didn’t even care about this… He had bigger problems in his life,” he said.
Ravi, alerted by his dorm resident adviser that Clementi was aware of his spying and wanted a room change, sent Clementi a text and an email apologizing. That text was sent about the same time that Clementi jumped off the bridge.
“What is frustrating was I never knew if he got my text or the e-mail that I sent. It was very frustrating to think I didn’t get a chance to say anything to him. To this day, I just say you know what, I’ll just think he read it and he got it and I’m going to accept that as that’s what happened. …At least he had to hear what I had to say.”
Ravi is scheduled to be sentenced May 21 and could face five to 10 years in prison. As an Indian citizen who is in the U.S. on a green card, Ravi could also face deportation.
Despite the hate crime conviction, Ravi maintains his innocence. He said he never hated Clementi and is not homophobic. That’s why, he said, he turned down prosecutors when they offered a plea deal that included no jail time in exchange for admitting to charges of intimidation against Clementi.
“I had to go up there in front of a judge under oath and say I intimidated Tyler because of sexual orientation — (to say that) I did this because I had this hate for gay people,” he said. “I don’t hate gay people.”
It is believed Clementi learned about his roommate’s spying over Ravi’s Twitter account, on which Ravi posted messages about the incidents.
The first time, Ravi said, he and a friend watched Clementi and his date kissing for just few seconds from another dorm room before quickly shutting it down. The second time, Ravi said, he planned to let a friend watch the webcam feed, and through a Twitter post he also let other friends know about his plans. But he later decided against it and turned the camera away from Clementi’s bed, he told Cuomo.
During Ravi’s trial, the prosecutor rejected Ravi’s claim to have turned off his computer and turning the webcam away, arguing that it was Clementi who shut it off.
Ravi told Cuomo that his actions were never intended to hurt or shame Clementi and that the Twitter posts were just a way to keep in touch with his own friends and let them know what was going on in his life.
“Looking back, I was very self-absorbed with the whole thing. It was never, ‘What if Tyler finds out, how’s he going to feel about it?’” he said. “…I was 18, I was stupid, I wouldn’t think about my actions beyond a minute into a future. I was a dumb kid not thinking about it.”
Despite media depictions of Clementi and his suicide, Ravi said he believes the teen wasn’t fragile.
“Just because he’s gay doesn’t mean he’s automatically fragile and can’t deal with anything,” he said.
While Ravi believes he should face some punishment, that punishment shouldn’t include jail, he said.
“So much worse happens,” he said. “Kids actually get bullied and actually go through stuff much worse than this. I understand why people feel the need to punish me. Bad stuff happens and they need to set an example, but it’s unfortunate this has to be the case where this happens.”
Ravi said he feels he’s been taken advantage of.
“The people that are fighting for gay rights, they have a just cause. I think this kind of detracts from their cause,” he said. “This is something people can point to and say, ‘You guys are going overboard.’ I think it’s bad for them.”
Watch the full story on “20/20″ tomorrow at 10 p.m. ET.