Light serving jail time for gun charges

David Light, the would-be Calhoun junior who was arrested twice last summer on weapons charges, was found guilty last Thursday and has already started serving what will likely be a one-year sentence in prison.

The Woodland Park, Colo., native pleaded no contest last week to two counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon — a class D felony — and one count of reckless endangerment in the first degree — a misdemeanor. University Director of Public Affairs Helaine Klasky said Monday night that Light is still under administrative suspension from Yale College pending a hearing by the Executive Committee, the University’s highest disciplinary body.

Light will be incarcerated for one year, after which he will be released on probation for three years, according to court records. Should he violate his probation, he will be subject to up to five additional years behind bars.

Prosecutors originally tried to push for a three-year sentence, but on the grounds of Light’s history and future potential, the judge decided to give him the mandatory minimum sentence of one year.

Light’s other charges were dropped during closed-door negotiations between lawyers on both sides.

He was originally charged last summer with 23 counts of possession of armor-piercing ammunition, 13 counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree, nine counts of breach of peace in the second degree, two counts of illegal possession of assault rifles and one count each of criminal attempt to commit the manufacture of bombs, manufacture or storage of explosive material near property of another, unlawful discharge of a firearm and threatening in the second degree.

Even Light’s lawyer William Dow III’s ’63 impeccable track record of helping acquit Yale students of a variety of charges could not halt what quickly shaped up to be the inevitable outcome: jail time. Recent campus shootings at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech have created a severe stigma for weapon-wielding students, Dow explained.

Dow has consistently said that Light’s lapse in judgement, though major, has been overblown.

“There’s no question that David’s actions were immature and careless, which is consistent with students his age,” he said. “Unfortunately, you don’t have the luxury of being immature and careless on college campuses when firearms are involved. He didn’t know that then; he knows it now. I’m confident he will grow and mature significantly from this experience.”

Last summer, Light was put in jail twice and released on bail that totalled $400,000. His first arrest came July 16, when Light arrived at his room in the former Beta Theta Pi fraternity house at 36 Lynwood Place to find Yale Police Department officers searching his bedroom. Police issued the warrant for his arrest after Light allegedly fired a handgun into the ceiling of the common room and threatened a visitor, who later reported him to the police, after being questioned about the safety of his behavior. After telling the visitor that his gun was loaded with blanks, Light added: “Why don’t I point it at your head to find out?”

In Light’s room, police said they found an AK-47, an AR-15 assault rifle, a .50-caliber sniper rifle, a Russian M-91 infantry rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, several pistols and 4,000 to 5,000 rounds of mixed ammunition. With the assistance of the New Haven Fire Department and the state Department of Environmental Protection, YPD officers also found a cardboard box filled with assorted liquid and dry chemicals, including flash powder and a 16 oz. jar of mercury. The box also contained cylindrical cardboard tubes, endcaps and fuses, which police determined to be bomb-making supplies.

Light’s arrests were at least partially responsible for Yale’s chapter of Beta Theta Pi’s expulsion from the national fraternity.

Despite his jail sentence, the University has yet to decide the fate of Light’s future at Yale.

According to the Yale Undergraduate Regulations for 2007-’08, a student under administrative suspension cannot re-enroll at Yale College until ExComm hears the complaint brought up against the student and makes a decision. ExComm members have a year from the date of Light’s original suspension to decide whether to readmit him.

But because his criminal case has already been settled in court, Light will not be allowed to request an extension of his suspension.

Some of Light’s friends accompanied Light at court Thursday to show their support. Brian Cox ’08, who has known Light since their freshman year, reluctantly resigned himself to the court’s decision.

“He’s probably one of my closest friends at Yale,” Cox said. “It doesn’t feel great. He has to go away. It is what it is.”

Samuel Strasser ’08, one of Light’s former Beta Theta Pi brothers, agreed. “I think it’s the best thing that could have happened given the facts that I know,” he said.

While he was at Yale, Light, a biology major, was a member of the New Haven Sportsman’s Club in Guilford, Conn. In addition to being an avid gun collector and a self-professed firearm aficionado, Light was also president of Chabad at Yale, a Jewish student organization.

—Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting.

Comments

  • NRA

    Darkness falls upon light.

  • Chris Keefer

    I'm so glad he got a felony charge. He will no longer be able to vote or own a gun legally.

  • Anonymous

    Chris Keefer is incorrect. Connecticut allows felons to vote upon completing imprisonment or parole.

  • Tim Gibbons

    I remember that in my freshman year (1973) our Resident adviser told us that Yale would bend a lot of rules and look the other way a lot of times but would not tolerate gun possession; the last student found with a hand gun at Yale had been expelled.

    I believe the case he referred to involved other issues like dealing in a lot of pot, etc.

  • Joe Camel

    Very interesting read. I would have to say I agree with the vast majority of what was said. However, I think it is again worth noting that sporadic attendance is more a function of individual lecturers than it is of a paradigm shift in approaches to learning.

    Although the source of the class photo in the original print article was not explicitly addressed in the text, I think that too is worth noting. In fact, I don’t think it is unreasonable to assume that this professor sought out the YDN to write the original piece (pure assumption). After learning the identity of the photographer-professor and his history of addressing the lowly attendance to his lectures in faculty meetings, it seems like the impetus for the original piece may have been more retaliatory than inquisitive. Rather than thoroughly questioning reasons why students may opt to skip his lectures, this professor has instead gone on the offensive and “tattled” on the students via faculty meetings and perhaps now through an article in the YDN.

    One final note: the teaching faculty at the medical school are not paid to teach (…not directly). Thus, there can be less motivation to continuously dedicate time and effort towards improving or completely overhauling lectures. If the medical school administration is interested in improving attendance to many of these lectures, they might be wise to consider paying the professors for the time and effort that goes into prepping and delivering a high-yield lecture. I know this is goes in the face of “the way things have always been,” but just because it IS this way, doesn’t mean it is BEST this way.

  • Chris Keefer

    "Chris Keefer is incorrect. Connecticut allows felons to vote upon completing imprisonment or parole." I stand corrected. But the good news is that he will NOT be able to buy a gun or own one legally and thats what really matters.

  • Recent Alum

    When a Yale leftist (and Skull & Bones member!) burns someone's American flag, Yale proudly defends him. When a Yale student exercises his Second Amendment right to bear arms, not so.

  • Echoes of Charlton Heston

    This guy got off relatively easy considering the amount of firepower and ammo he had. He appears to be a nut of some sort. He got a slap on the wrist; if it had been an African-American or a Latino, the court would have thrown the book at him or her.

  • Charleton Heston2

    All these guns and ammo are nuts. I have a child at Yale. I would not feel comfortable having this guy readmitted to Yale. Executive Committee, don't let him come back a year from now(or ever). Inexcusable.

  • joey

    i heard you do LOSE voting priveleges when convicted of a felony and you can plead years after for re-instatement of your voting rights.It was just in the paper the other day that City Hall has obtained voting rights for several felons
    But Lights charges were dropped down to misdemeaners for a plea bargain agreement or was that the other student?

  • Yale Parent/Echoes of Heston

    I am a bit ambivalent about whether this guy should be readmitted to Yale. I think that after he's paid his debt to society and he's undergone some serious mental health counseling, Yale should re-visit the issue of whether he should be readmitted to the School. There's an argument to be made that there should be zero tolerance for those convicted of weapons related charges; however, as a society we do believe in second chances and rehabilitation. He should have to demonstrate convincingly that he is fit to be among other students and will not pose a danger to their health or safety.

  • 2010

    For those of us that knew David, what has happened to him is a sad tragedy. Anyone that met him knew that he was a gun enthusiast, and also knew that he wasn't a danger to anyone. I look forward to seeing him return to campus, and hope Ex Comm makes the rational decision to allow him to.

  • liberty

    There goes the second amendment. So much for the bill of rights. Did he hurt anyone? No. Did he plan on hurting anyone? No. A place where a man's future can be ruined just because he chose to partake in his constitutional rights is not the America I believe in.

  • NAKAM

    chris keefer - a U.S military guy who blew the whistle on David light because he was pissing in his pants and envious. so he went with mommy to the police 48 hours after seeing David’s gun. The pussy needed time to sober up and when he did he decided to ruin someone else’s life. GOOD JOB keefer!!!