A six-person jury cleared Saifullah Khan of four sexual assault charges on Wednesday, more than two years after the former Yale student was arrested for allegedly raping another Yale undergraduate on Halloween night 2015.
The long-awaited trial got underway last Monday, and, just over a week later, after hearing testimony from about a dozen witnesses, the jury began deliberating late Tuesday afternoon. It took less than four hours for the jury to reach the verdict that Khan is not guilty of sexual assault in the first, second, third or fourth degrees. Khan, a native of Afghanistan, began sobbing as the verdict was announced and embraced friends and family as he left the courtroom.
“We’re grateful to six courageous jurors who were able to understand that campus life isn’t the real world,” Khan’s lawyer, Norm Pattis, said in email to the News after the verdict came out. “Kids experiment with identity and sexuality. When an experiment goes awry, it’s not a crime.”
Khan, who was a senior at Yale studying cognitive science in the fall of 2015, was suspended by the University on Nov. 9, 2015, three days before he was arrested. Pattis said Yale should readmit Khan to “right that wrong.” Khan’s other attorney, Dan Erwin, said the defense team will closely follow how Yale responds to the verdict.
Khan referred questions about the verdict to his lawyers.
State Prosecutor Michael Pepper could not be reached for comment after the trial. And University spokesman Tom Conroy declined to comment on whether the University will consider readmitting Khan.
The Khan case has drawn attention as one of the few campus rape cases to go to trial. The jury’s verdict put a spotlight on the heated debate over whether campus sexual assault accusations are best handled by internal university panels or by law enforcement.