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Man convicted of US webcam gay spying apologizes

Dharun Ravi, center, and his father, Ravi Pazhani, leave court in New Brunswick, N.J. Dharun Ravi on Tuesday, May 29, 2012. (AP)
Dharun Ravi, center, and his father, Ravi Pazhani, leave court in New Brunswick, N.J. Dharun Ravi on Tuesday, May 29, 2012. (AP)

An Indian-born former Rutgers University student criticized by a judge for refusing to apologize for using a webcam to spy on his male roommate kissing another man days before the roommate killed himself apologized 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 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 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 apologizing 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 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 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 apologized. 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,’’ 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.’’ (AP)

<관련 한글 기사>

20대男, 동성애 몰카 찍히자 자살

미국에서 게이(동성애자) 룸메이트의 동성애 장면을 웹 카메라로 엿봐 이를 알게 된 룸메이트를 자살에 이르게 한 20대 전 대학생에게 매우 가벼운 형량인 징역 30일이 선고됐다.

애초 ‘증오범죄’(hate crime)로 규정돼 최장 10년을 교도소에서 보낼 것이라는 일반적 예상과 달리 판사는 이를 ‘편견범죄’(bias crime)로 봐 논란이 확산할 조짐을 보이고 있다.

21일(현지시간) 미국 언론에 따르면 뉴저지주(州) 뉴어크의 럿거스대에 재학 중이던 다런 라비(20)는 룸메이트의 동성애 장면을 웹 카메라로 훔쳐봐 자살까지 초래함으로써 미국 사회에 반(反)동성애 괴롭힘(anti-gay bullying), 사생활 침해, 10대 자살, 증오범죄 등의 논란을 일으켰으나 30일 징역형을 선고받는데 그쳤다.

당시 18세이던 룸메이트 타일러 클레멘티는 이 사실을 알게 됐고, 며칠이 지난 2010년 9월 조지 워싱턴 다리에서 뛰어내려 스스로 목숨을 끊었다.

라비는 클레멘티의 죽음을 유발한 혐의로는 기소되지 않았다.

상대적으로 가벼운 형량을 선고하면서 글렌 버먼 판사는 자신이 라비의 행동에 대해 한 번도 ‘증오범죄’라고 언급하지 않고 ‘편견범죄’라는 단어를 썼음을 강조했다.

증오범죄는 소수 인종, 소수 민족, 동성애자, 특정 종교인, 사회 약자 등에 이유 없는, 또는 편견에 따른 증오심을 갖고 테러를 가하거나 위협하는 행위에 적용되며 통상 편견범죄와 같은 뜻으로 쓰인다.

버먼 판사는 "나는 라비가 클레멘티를 증오했다고 믿지 않는다. 그는 그럴 이유가 없었다"면서도 "그러나 그가 놀라울 정도로 무신경하게 행동한 것은 사실"이라고 설명했다.

그리고 나서 30일 징역과 3년간의 보호관찰, 300시간의 사회봉사, 사이버 괴롭힘 및 대안적 삶과 관련한 심리치료를 명령하고 편견범죄 희생자 지원 조직에 1만달러를 기부하는 동시에 벌금 1천900달러를 내라고 밝혔다.

버먼 판사는 라비에게 "나는 배심원단이 288번이나 ‘유죄’라고 말하는 것을 들었다. 12명의 배심원에게 24번 물어본 것을 곱하면 된다"며 "그렇지만 단 한 번도 사과하는 것을 들어본 적이 없다"고 개탄해 했다.

검찰은 항소하겠다고 밝혔다.

판결에 앞서 라비의 어머니는 "아들의 꿈은 이미 산산조각이 났고 지난 20개월간 지옥에서 살았다"며 눈물로 선처를 호소했다.

반면, 클레멘티의 어머니도 눈물을 흘리면서 "라비의 행동이 얼마나 잘못된 것인지 세상이 알 수 있게 정의를 구현해달라"고 강조했다.

판결이 끝나자 언론 성명을 준비했던 클레멘티의 가족과 라비 가족은 모두 아무런 언급 없이 서로 다른 방향으로 서둘러 사라졌다. (연합뉴스)