Male Students Face Uphill Battle in Proving Innocence
Male students accused of sexual assault face an uphill battle in proving their innocence on college campuses. Their reputations are destroyed, their future prospects ruined, and thousands of dollars in tuition is lost.
A Targeted Student
But one student has been targeted again and again – by law enforcement, by his school, and by the media – in a way most students never experience.
Saifullah Khan, 30, was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan six months after his family fled Afghanistan to avoid potentially being killed by the Taliban. He grew up in and around the refugee camp before fleeing to the United Arab Emirates. Khan, a bright student, applied to Yale and was accepted, but suggested he attend the preparatory Hotchkiss School in nearby Lakeville, Connecticut first. Khan accepted a full scholarship to Hotchkiss and Yale. Prior to attending Hotchkiss, Khan hadn’t even learned to use a knife and fork.
Khan’s bright future came crashing down on Halloween night in 2015, when he slept with a woman who never has been named publicly and will therefore be referred to as Jane Doe. This one-night stand has lost Khan nearly 10 years of his life – and there is no end in sight.
The Night of the Encounter
On the night of the sexual encounter, Khan, who knew his accuser previously, attended a Halloween party where the pair met up before a concert by the Yale Student Orchestra later that evening.
Jane, by her own admission, stated that she did not drink much that evening, certainly not enough to render her so intoxicated that she could not consent to sex. She claimed to have had two drinks that contained two-fingers’ height of rum, which was mixed with soda. She also said she had a third drink, which contained one-finger height of bourbon.
During the concert, Jane threw up a little on her costume, so she and Khan left. The prosecution would later describe this as major evidence, but the preserved dress showed very little vomit on it, making Jane appear much less drunk than she claimed.
After leaving the concert, Khan and Jane walked together across campus and returned to their dormitory. Khan took Jane to her room and used his key card to swipe her in. A minute later, Khan used his key card to enter his own dorm room. Khan and his attorneys say that Jane called Khan to ask him to come back to her room.
According to Khan, once there, Jane asked him to check up on one of her friends, who had too much to drink that night. Time codes show that Khan used his key card in an area of the dorm he had no otherwise reason to be in — the area where Jane’s friend was sick. Khan returned to Jane’s room after checking on her friend, and Jane performed oral sex on Khan. Jane asked Khan to wear a condom, but she gagged on it and went into the bathroom to vomit, Khan says.
While she was in the bathroom, Khan called his girlfriend at another university, with whom he had an open relationship. Khan said he did not understand how an American girl might feel about him talking to another woman just after engaging in sexual activity, as Khan and his girlfriend were both from Afghanistan.
Khan and Jane then engaged in sexual intercourse and fell asleep in Jane’s bed. The next morning, Khan returned to his own room.
An Ongoing Battle
Khan alleges that shortly after this encounter, Jane began telling her friends she was raped, but told a campus health care worker that she had consensual unprotected sex. Jane then publicly accused Khan of rape and went to the Yale Women’s Center where she was advised to file a formal complaint against Khan. Based on her complaint, Khan was immediately suspended, and police opened an investigation.
At trial, Khan’s attorneys came under fire for allegedly asking “victim-blaming” questions of Jane, including how much she had to drink and why she chose a skimpy costume instead of a more modest one. Because Jane’s accusation rested on her being too drunk to consent, a question about how much she drank was relevant.
As for the dress, jurors who spoke to the media after the trial said the style of the dress had no bearing on their decision.
“The significance of the dress to me was another issue [besides whether it was skimpy or not],” juror Jim Gallulo said, adding that the prosecution made it seem as if she had vomited after getting off an amusement park ride. The prosecution didn’t even attempt to address the discrepancy between their claims and the actual evidence, Gallulo added.
Jurors found Khan not guilty of rape just three hours after the jury went into deliberation, based mainly on surveillance footage of Khan and Jane walking across campus together.
“That’s when the case really fell apart for her narrative,” Gallulo said after the trial.
Prosecutors claimed the video showed Khan practically dragging the woman back to the dorms because she was too drunk to walk, even though by her own claims she hadn’t drunk anything since leaving that first party.
“When the prosecutor first put it up on the video, I thought it was a happy couple that was going to be a witness to see him leave her dorm room,” alternate juror Elise Wiener said in 2018 after the trial. “She was not limping or being dragged – she was arm-in-arm with him.”
An Ongoing Reputational Assault
Having won at trial – in which all evidence for both sides was presented and witnesses were cross-examined – Khan thought his future again looked bright.
But upon returning to Yale, Khan was informed he would face a much less rigorous campus tribunal, where cross-examination is denied and only evidence Yale wants to be heard is included, particularly evidence that helps the accuser.
“Yale has let me know that the [University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct] process has been extended all the way till September for a ‘more thorough investigation,’” Khan wrote in the summer of 2018. “I am deciding to attend University this fall.”
As expected, Khan was found responsible under Yale’s preponderance-of-the-evidence standard, which only requires administrators trained to believe accusers to be 50% plus a feather sure that the accused is responsible.
Khan sued Yale and his accuser in 2019, and that lawsuit is now working its way through the court system. In June, Khan received a big win – the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Yale administrators did not have qualified immunity to be sued, as they had argued. Yale argued that the campus process was quasi-judicial, and therefore immunity was warranted, but the court ruled that the process was not quasi-judicial because it lacked due process, including cross-examination.
“For absolute immunity to apply under Connecticut law,” the justices wrote, according to The New York Times, “fundamental fairness requires meaningful cross-examination in proceedings like the one at issue.”
The court added that Khan’s attorney during the Yale proceedings essentially amounted to the role of a “potted plant.”
Norman Pattis, one of Khan’s attorneys, told the Times that it “is fundamentally unfair to take a person accused and put him in a situation where the accuser is believed and pandered to and the person’s right to defend himself is minimized.”
Yet the Times loads it’s article on Khan’s lawsuit with people who claim that cross-examining a witness amounts to “retraumitization” and should therefore be discontinued – but only in sexual assault allegations.
Joseph Vincent, who isn’t an attorney and worked for a Title IX consulting firm that consulted with colleges on how to find male students responsible, told the Times that cross-examination has no value in a campus hearing, claiming it is only mean to test the credibility and demeanor of the accuser under pressure, and therefore are not a meaningful way to discover the truth.
Vincent added that cross-examination only helps those who can afford to hire the “flashiest attack dog attorney money can buy.”
Defense attorney Scott Greenfield countered that claim on his personal blog, Simple Justice, arguing that Vincent’s claims, devoid of any knowledge of the law, legal process, or even how cross-examination is carried out, serves one purpose: “it’s a lot easier to win when the person accused can’t do anything to challenge lies, exaggerations and delusions.”
Greenfield cited the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that in cases of he said/she said, which most campus allegations are, schools need to use cross-examination to determine credibility.
Even with this win, Khan’s lawsuit continues. He expects a decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals regarding qualified immunity to also fall in his favor, with both rulings leading up to a trial.
An Ongoing Reputational Assault
Khan’s case highlights an issue that some accused students face – an ongoing reputational assault. For Khan, now 30, it has come from Yale, activists, the legal system, and the media.
“I mentioned to the Times that ‘Yale took my 20s away,’ I’ll let them [the media and others] have my 30s,” Khan told The Daily Wire, adding that this is his “response to the depressing onslaught and persistent harm that Yale, the mob, and the 15 amici have been targeting me with.”
The “15 amici” is a reference to the amicus briefs filed in Khan’s case from activists seeking to deprive him of the millions of dollars he has requested in damages.
As the case continues through the courts, Khan is struggling. He was a neuroscience major at Yale, hoping to understand the interplay between consciousness and artificial intelligence, but that dream has been shattered. He had also founded two startups while in college, but both have crumbled due to the allegations and ongoing reputational harm.
Another issue for Khan is his legal status in the U.S. Khan says deportation proceedings had been initiated against him when he was expelled from Yale, as he had immigrated to the U.S. on a student visa. But he has not been deported, since his legal case is ongoing, putting his immigration status in limbo and limiting his job prospects.
“The American dream,” Khan said. “Yale stole that.”
How do Title IX guidelines currently disproportionately favor accusers in cases of sexual assault on college campuses?
St.com/2019/02/24/saifullah-khan-rape-case-interview/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>told The Federalist. “The fact of the matter is, whether it was a lot or a little, she herself had stated that she drank that night, so that called into question her statement that she couldn’t remember anything.”
Despite the inconsistencies in Jane’s account, Khan was found guilty and expelled from Yale. He now faces an uphill battle in clearing his name and continuing his education.
The Consequences for Male Students
Khan’s case is not unique – many male students accused of sexual assault face a similar uphill battle in proving their innocence. In an effort to address the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, Title IX guidelines have been implemented, which aim to protect victims and ensure fair proceedings. However, there have been criticisms that the guidelines disproportionately favor accusers and violate the rights of the accused.
One of the main problems is the lack of due process for the accused. In many cases, the accused is not offered the same rights and protections as the accuser. They may not have access to legal representation, the right to cross-examine witnesses, or the ability to present their own evidence. This puts male students at a significant disadvantage in defending themselves against false accusations.
Another issue is the stigma that comes with being accused of sexual assault. Even if the accused is ultimately found innocent, their reputation may be permanently tarnished. They may face social ostracization, difficulty finding employment, and damage to their mental health. The impact of false accusations on the lives of male students cannot be understated.
Furthermore, the financial consequences of being accused of sexual assault can be devastating. Students who are expelled or suspended may lose their scholarships or be required to pay back tuition fees. This not only affects their current education, but also their future prospects. Male students who are wrongfully accused can lose years of their lives and thousands of dollars in the pursuit of clearing their names.
The Need for Fairness and Due Process
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