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.