New Brunswick, New Jersey: After weeks of obstinate silence, Dharun Ravi finally spoke the words his detractors were waiting to hear - that he regrets his "thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices."
In a statement, Mr Ravi wrote "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."
Dharun Ravi spied on his roommate, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, while he was having an intimate moment with an older man in their dorm room. He then joked about the incident in emails and on Twitter and implied that he would spy on Tyler again. 24 hours later Clementi committed suicide, by jumping off the George Washington Bridge outside New York City.
He was criticised in blogs, emails and editorials but even at his sentencing on May 21, 2012, as he stood before the judge potentially facing 10 years behind bars, Dharun Ravi kept a studied silence.
He earned the wrath of the Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman who scolded him in open court saying, "I heard this jury say 'guilty' 288 times and I haven't heard you apologise once."
Still, he was sentenced to only 30 days in prison along with a fine, probation and community service.
The American legal system is often criticised for having de-humanised society, turning a range of human relationships: parent-child, husband-wife, doctor-patient, into contractual obligations. Yet, surprisingly enough, as we saw this week, American lawyers and judges also have hearts and emotions, and what the entire Ravi trial called for, more than anything else, was a human touch.
While many were appalled at the slap-on-the-wrist sentence, the judge explained the thought behind his leniency. Dharun's behaviour was despicable but putting him behind bars with hardened criminals murderers and rapists would not serve the interest of justice.
Even South Asian Gay and Lesbian support groups agreed with that wisdom. Mashuq Deen, from The South Asian Lesbian & Gay Association (SALGA) explains "How does a 19-year-old kid survive an adult prison, and that too a 19-year-old south Asian kid? What does he have to do and whom is he going to have to become to survive? That is not rehabilitation. In fighting bullying what you want is people to see each other and understand eachothers' differences and see how we can talk about it instead of punching someone of making fun of someone."
Sometimes the shortest sentence can be the hardest to say. Two simple words "I'm sorry" that Dharun Ravi waited for too long to say. Tyler Clementi's parents have rejected Dharun's apology calling it a publicity stunt. Mr Ravi's trial is still incomplete as the prosecutor says they are going to appeal but in another surprise announcement Mr Ravi has decided to surrender himself and has begun serving his sentence.
The only possible explanation for Mr Ravi's silence is that his lawyers may have advised him against apologising, for fear of compromising his legal position. But he may finally be taking his first steps towards a life beyond this case.
Story first published:
June 01, 2012 12:48 IST