Saifullah Khan, the former Yale student currently on trial for rape, took the witness stand Tuesday to provide his account of the night in 2015 when his accuser says he raped her in her Trumbull College dorm room.
A native of Afghanistan who studied cognitive science at Yale, Khan faces charges of rape in the first, second, third and fourth degrees. After hearing from about a dozen witnesses, the jury began deliberating after closing arguments from the defense and prosecution Tuesday afternoon.
In her testimony, Khan’s accuser — who is referred to in court documents as Jane Doe and who testified last Monday, on the first day of the trial — said she became intoxicated after consuming two rum and cokes, one shot of hard liquor and two cups of wine at a party at Shabtai, a Jewish society, on Halloween night in 2015. She also said in her testimony that she has had trouble remembering much of the rest of the night. But when he took the stand on Tuesday, Khan denied that Doe showed any signs of inebriation.
“Did she appear unsteady? Did she stumble? Was she slurring? Did you have trouble understanding her?” defense lawyer Norm Pattis asked Khan at various points in the examination. Khan’s answer each time was “no, sir.”
Both Doe and Khan testified that they sat together at the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s Halloween show after the Shabtai party. Doe said she and Khan were not flirting during the show, but, according to Khan, he and Doe held hands and had their arms around one another’s shoulders as they sat together. He added that Doe was her “usual jovial, happy” self.
At the show, Khan said, Doe vomited, and afterward he and Doe left Woolsey Hall so she could use the bathroom. But they were denied admission when they tried to reenter the concert. They then took a stroll through Grove Street Cemetery and talked about physics, he said.
After walking through the cemetery, Khan said, he and Doe walked back to Trumbull College, where they both lived. Surveillance footage shows Doe and Khan walking past Sterling Memorial Library toward Trumbull at 12:40 a.m. on Nov. 1.
After returning to Trumbull, Khan said, he helped Doe open the door to her entryway, said “goodbye” to Doe and started to walk back to his entryway. At that point, Khan said, Doe came out after him and called his name.
Asked how he interpreted her tone, Khan said her voice sounded “as if [he] made a mistake and she was scolding me, as if there was some expectation.” After he responded “yeah” to Doe’s call, Khan said, Doe asked him whether he wanted to come back to her room. Khan said he then followed Doe to her room.
Swipe access records cited by the defense show that Khan’s ID was used to swipe into his own entryway shortly after 12:40 a.m. and that — just 25 seconds later — it was used to swipe into Doe’s entryway.
While Doe said in her testimony that she did not remember how her clothes were removed, Khan said she started to take her clothes off after they entered her room, at which point he began to feel “excited” and “aroused.” He then went to get two condoms, he said, and, when he returned, Doe was fully unclothed.
According to Khan, Doe first agreed to give him oral sex, but then vomited after he told her he liked “going deep.” Khan said he used the first condom at the request of the victim during the oral sex. At that point, Doe went to shower, he said, and Khan called his girlfriend, with whom he talked almost every day and who on Monday testified that for the past six years she and Khan have been in a “long-distance, open relationship.” He and his girlfriend both testified that she and Doe spoke on the phone and exchanged pleasantries that night.
After the two-hour-long phone call with his girlfriend, Khan said, he and his accuser had vaginal sex with a condom, and he ejaculated while she was on top of him.
When asked why he went to sleep on Doe’s couch after having sex with her, Khan said that he first rolled away from the victim and then left the bed to sleep on the couch. He noted, however, that he was not thinking properly at the time because he is “usually out of it after an orgasm.” Khan told the prosecutor that he still had enough thinking capacity to want to give the alleged victim space after sex.
The next morning, Khan said, he was “slapped awake and didn’t know what was happening.” He added that the Doe then asked why they had had sex and insisted that they not tell other people, like her friends, about the encounter. Khan said he then cleaned up the condom wrappers in her bedroom and left the suite.
In his closing argument, state’s attorney Michael Pepper said that, throughout Doe and Khan’s interactions, she never had any romantic interest in him.
Khan, Pepper said, “was in the process of grooming [Doe] to a certain extent.” Following a lunch just days before the alleged rape, Pepper said, Khan followed Doe to her entryway and repeatedly tried to gain entry. After dinner Halloween night, Pepper continued, Khan refused to take no for an answer.
According to the prosecution, Doe had little recollection of the YSO Show and the subsequent events.
“She was so drunk … that she was essentially sleepwalking,” Pepper said.
After Doe woke up the following morning and realized that she had had sex with Khan, he told her that it was consensual and that she had sobered up after she threw up all the alcohol, Pepper said. But Khan instructed Doe not to tell anyone; he insisted on meeting Doe later to go over the previous night, Pepper continued.
Someone who had consensual sex would not need to meet their partner to recount events, he argued. He added that Khan slept on Doe’s couch to preview her condition the following day and to see what she remembered — to get a “first crack at her before she reported anything to any authorities.”
The defense’s closing argument presented a different narrative. In his closing remarks, defense attorney Daniel Erwin emphasized that the jury should make decisions independent of narratives in the news.
“Each of you were asked about narratives that are going on in the media outside of this courtroom,” Erwin said to the jury members. “This case is not about all those other narratives.”
Yale, he argued, is a pressure-cooker: a top school that suffers neither fools nor mistakes. It is reasonable to conclude that, in such a place, a young person uncomfortable with the outcome of an encounter might attribute blame to someone else, he added.
Pattis, Khan’s other attorney, emphasized that Khan is a hard-working immigrant and a first-generation college student. He said Doe was the person to initiate a text conversation with Khan every couple of days. Delving into the sexual encounter, Pattis said Doe did what “lovers sometimes do.”
The jury is expected to convene from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday.
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