Louis Theroux’s new documentary, The Night In Question, focuses on sexual assault claims in US colleges, interviewing both accusers and the accused.
The main subject of the film is Saif Khan, who Theroux followed the story of over a six month period. With the documentary airing on BBC 2 this week, here’s the background to Khan’s case.
Who is Saif Khan?
Saifullah ‘Saif’ Khan was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan to Afghan parents. He moved to the United States on a scholarship at the age of 18, enrolling at Yale University as a neuroscience student in 2012.
What allegations has Saif Khan faced?
In 2015, Khan was accused of the rape of a fellow student at Yale, an allegation which he denies and was found not guilty of by a six-person jury in March 2018.
According to Yale Daily News, the accuser – referred to in court documents as “Jane Doe” as a way of withholding her identity – testified that Khan “had vaginal sex with her… when she was in a state of inebriation”.
The report states: “Doe… said her memory of that night was fragmentary. She said she remembers vomiting after she entered her room, then lying down on her bed fully clothed. At some point during the night, Doe said, she remembers Khan appearing next to her, climbing on top of her and penetrating her.”
“I was crying, I tried to say stop but I’m not sure if anything came out,” Doe is reported to have said during her testimony.
The report continues: “Khan testified that Doe did not show any signs of intoxication that night and denied that she slurred her words or appeared unsteady.”
Khan was cleared of all four sexual assault charges, which jury members concluding that Doe and her team had, according to the report, “failed to prove that the evidence showed ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’… that Khan had committed a crime.”
“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 a statement to Yale Daily News at the time. “Kids experiment with identity and sexuality. When an experiment goes awry, it’s not a crime.”
What other allegations has Khan been the subject of?
In October 2018, Yale Daily News reported that Khan was the subject of new allegations made by an individual named as Jon Andrews.
The report quoted court documents that accused Khan of having “acted violently towards Jon Andrews, a former associate of Khan’s who accused Khan of sexually assaulting him earlier this year during an alcohol-fueled threesome in Washington, D.C” and having “physically attacking him on two other separate occasions.”
Khan denied the claims and the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department dropped the investigation in November 2018 without charge.
Why was Khan suspended by Yale University?
After Khan’s arrest in November 2015, Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct suspended its own internal investigation until after the verdict of the criminal court case. The UWC resumed its investigation in April 2018, a month after Khan was acquitted. University rules allow students under investigation to attend classes and Khan voiced his intent to re-enroll for the fall of 2018.
However, Yale placed Khan under an emergency suspension in October 2018 following the sexual and physical assault allegations. This banned Khan from the Yale University campus and barred him from attending any classes. In response, Khan filed a lawsuit accusing Yale of breach of contract by issuing their suspension.
In January 2019, the Yale Daily News reported that Khan had been expelled after the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct found Khan responsible for the original 2015 sexual assault claim.
The report noted: “Like most colleges and universities, Yale uses a lower standard of proof — a ‘preponderance of the evidence’ — compared to criminal courts, which use a ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard. Under Yale’s standard, there must be a greater than 50 percent likelihood that the accused committed the crime in order to be found guilty.”
What’s the latest?
Khan withdrew his lawsuit against Yale on 3 January 2019 as a result of his expulsion and his attorney Norm Pattis has indicated that he will request an appeal to the UWC, admitting that Khan will “likely lose the appeal”. Describing the UWC’s investigation as “fatally flawed”, Pattis has further stated that Khan will “turn to the federal courts for relief” if the UWC appeal fails.
“Mr. Khan is now expelled and will have to fight his way back into Yale by way of the courts in lengthier proceedings,” Pattis wrote in a blog post. “…He still believes in justice, and, for reasons that escape me, still wants to finish his degree at Yale.”