Khan and his consort:
Former confidant now accuses Khan of assault
This article contains violent and sexually graphic language.
Editor’s Note: Two days after this story was published, Yale placed Saifullah Khan on emergency suspension.
For months, Jon Andrews was Saifullah Khan’s most ardent supporter.
As Khan, a 25-year-old senior, went on trial last February on charges that he raped a fellow Yale student in her Trumbull College dorm room, Andrews, 24, supported him every step of the way, helping him draft legal correspondence and develop courtroom strategies to undermine the credibility of his accuser. Andrews had experience in this area: He was a board member for Families Advocating for Campus Equality, an advocacy group that works to defend college students accused of sexual assault. After meeting at a FACE event in November 2017, Andrews said, the pair spent hundreds of hours on the phone together in the months leading up to the trial, developing an emotional bond that evolved into a romantic relationship. On trial days, Andrews sent Khan gift baskets to help him cope with the pressure. Khan was ultimately found not guilty on all counts and returned to Yale this fall.
But in a series of interviews this summer, Andrews, who is gay, said he was sexually assaulted by the man he worked so hard to defend against rape charges. Over the course of their seven-month relationship, Andrews said, Khan sexually assaulted him during an alcohol-fueled threesome in Washington, D.C., last June and physically attacked him on two other occasions.
“Being with Saif for the nine months we were together was like being slowly smothered,” Andrews said. “Every day he tangled me up more and more in his twisted world.”
Much of Andrews’ account of the threesome was corroborated by the third participant — a woman who has asked to be identified by the pseudonym Sophie — though she said that there were details of the encounter she could not confirm.
Khan declined to comment on Andrews’ accusations, though he had already spoken extensively with the News about his social and academic life at Yale. In a statement to the News on Sept. 16, Khan’s lawyer, Margaret Valois, denied that Khan ever had sexual contact with Andrews and described the assault accusations as “ridiculous” and “false and defamatory.”
“These accusations are painful and illegitimate, and Mr. Khan’s life is not tabloid fodder,” Valois wrote.
On Sept. 19, Khan claimed in an email to the News that he would provide documents proving that “Mr. Andrews is an admitted liar.” Neither Khan nor his lawyer has since contacted the News or provided any such documents.
Despite their frequent communication, Andrews said he and Khan saw each other in person only three times over the course of their relationship: once at a biannual FACE conference in Dallas, another time in May while celebrating Andrews’ birthday in Indianapolis and a final time in Washington, D.C., during a FACE event. On these occasions, Andrews said, Khan instructed him to complete specific, usually submissive physical acts in order to sexually arouse him, though they never had penetrative intercourse. And over the phone, Andrews said, the two often had sexually explicit conversations, some of which spilled into text messages that Andrews provided to the News.
Andrews resigned from FACE this summer after the group’s board of directors discovered his relationship with Khan in early June. The group’s two co-presidents, Alison Scott and Cynthia Garrett, wrote in a memo distributed to the board of directors that Andrews’ “romantic relationship with a FACE student has negatively impacted FACE students, families, and Friends of FACE.” And FACE’s board of directors also discussed Andrews’ “romantic relationship” with Khan during a two-hour conference call on June 25, a recording of which was obtained by the News. (Garrett did not provide a comment for this story.)
Khan was acquitted in March, and Yale allowed him to resume classes this summer. But shortly after the acquittal, his relationship with Andrews took a dark turn, according to legal records and interviews with Andrews and three other people with direct knowledge of the relationship.
On Aug. 17, a judge in Andrews’ home state of Indiana granted him a protective order against Khan based on his descriptions of the threesome and the two other incidents — one in which Andrews said Khan had struck him across the face and another in which he alleged that Khan had suffocated him. On Aug. 29, Andrews reported his encounters with Khan to the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department. Kristen Metzger, a spokesperson for the metro police, said that Andrews’ case is currently under investigation.
Valois said that Khan “has never been contacted by any law enforcement officers from Washington, D.C., or Indiana regarding any criminal investigation” and is unaware of “any such investigations.”
Andrews, who began speaking with the News in July about his experiences with Khan, said that he filed the protective order for fear of Khan retaliating when he found out that Andrews was discussing their relationship with reporters. And, Andrews said he spoke to police about his allegations against Khan because he was concerned for the safety of Yale students now that Khan is back on campus.
“It took me quite a while to fully come to terms with what happened to me,” Andrews said. “For a few weeks I told myself, and others, that maybe I deserved what I got when he assaulted me.”
Throughout their relationship, Andrews said, Khan aggressively denigrated women, referring to them as “whores.” Andrews provided text messages to the News with examples of such language.
“Saif always struck me as someone who was different. But he didn’t strike me as someone who was guilty until he started telling me about his fantasies of raping women and men alike,” he said. “They disturbed me, and I brushed them off as jokes for a long while before I realized how serious he was and how dark his fantasies were. I regret ever indulging in them.”
Valois said that Khan “categorically denies sending any message to anyone in which he denigrates women or refers to them as ‘whores’” and that any messages corroborating the allegation provided to the News were “fabrications.”
After he was arrested on rape charges in November 2015, the University suspended Khan pending the results of an investigation by the Yale Police Department. Following his acquittal in March, the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct — which uses a “preponderance of evidence” standard to make judgments rather than the more demanding criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt” — began to investigate Khan’s conduct. The committee has yet to reach a decision.
In early August, Andrews attempted to file a complaint against Khan with the UWC. But Yale officials informed him that the University has no jurisdiction over misconduct that does not take place on campus or at a Yale-sponsored event, unless the accuser is a current or former member of the Yale community.
Yale spokesperson Tom Conroy said the University does not discuss “matters, including allegations, relating to individual students, nor does it comment on matters addressed by the UWC.”
With the UWC investigation dragging on, the University granted Khan permission over the summer to enroll in classes at Yale. He currently lives in an apartment on Chapel Street, a short walk from the center of campus.
This semester, Khan is taking the popular constitutional law lecture taught by Yale Law School professor Akhil Reed Amar ’80 LAW ’84. He is also enrolled in “The Criminal Mind,” an introductory psychology lecture on the study of criminal behavior. Khan has decided, however, to stay away from gender studies classes. That would be “too on the nose,” he said. “I’m taking the high road.”
Andrews joined FACE in early 2016 after two male students in his fraternity at Hanover College each accused him of sexual assault. He maintains that the students fabricated the allegations to get back at him for making a similar assault accusation against one of them.
Hanover did not find Andrews responsible for the accusation made by the first student, but following a subsequent struggle with depression and a suicide attempt, Andrews dropped out of Hanover anyway. Though he was no longer enrolled there, the school found Andrews responsible for the second allegation of sexual misconduct.
In February 2016, Andrews hired an attorney to advise him regarding the Title IX complaints he faced at Hanover. That attorney was Margaret Valois, the same lawyer who now represents Khan. She and Andrews stayed in touch afterward over phone and social media. Until last month, she followed him on Twitter.
It was Andrews who recruited Valois as Khan’s legal adviser in April 2018. In one text message to Andrews over the summer, she expressed concerns about Khan’s trustworthiness. And in a message from May 3, she wrote that Khan “has this way of talking in double-speak … it’s like he’s always giving you some information but not all of it.” In a third text, from June 15, she wrote that “[Khan] acts like secret agent man, I feel like I’m in the dark.”
Valois told the News that her text messages to Andrews “do not signify anything other than prudent and zealous advocacy.”
“At first, I knew little of Mr. Khan and was certainly concerned when Mr. Andrews reported purported inconsistencies or omissions in Mr. Khan’s statements,” Valois said. “As with any new client, I was on the lookout for potential manipulation or other ulterior motives …. To be clear, I have never found evidence of such conduct on Mr. Khan’s part.”
Andrews met Khan for the first time in November 2017, at the biannual FACE conference in Dallas. At first, Andrews said, the event was business as usual: FACE members assembled into support groups for students accused of sexual misconduct on college campuses; they gathered for consultation sessions with lawyers who specialize in campus sexual misconduct cases; and they attended speaking events focused on Title IX.
But one night, a student member of the organization raised concerns to Andrews about Khan’s profile on the gay dating app Grindr, in which, according to Andrews, Khan promised to “fuck the masculinity out of” his sexual partners. Andrews decided to check in on Khan later that afternoon. When the two met up, Andrews said, the conversation turned flirtatious, as he and Khan discussed their shared interest in bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism — a set of sexual preferences known as BDSM. (Valois said that Khan has never used Grindr.)
But as the relationship developed, Andrews said, it became clear that Khan saw him not just as a romantic partner, but also as a vehicle for facilitating sexual encounters with women.
“Saif always made it clear that my ‘job’ as his ‘chief consort’ … [was] to find him ‘whores’ that he could fuck,” Andrews said. “I always felt uncomfortable with this.”
On March 27, Khan texted Andrews: “I love the fact that whores come seeking your advice,” according to a screenshot Andrews provided to the News. “I don’t think they are courageous enough to come up to me.”
In phone calls, Andrews said, Khan made outlandish and misogynistic business propositions. One idea Khan suggested was to open a “rape hotel,” in which women would check in to be voluntarily assaulted, Andrews said. (Valois denied that Kahn has ever expressed interest in opening a “rape hotel.”)
For Khan, sexual violence was more than just a fantasy, though, Andrews said. When Khan visited Andrews in Indianapolis to see the musical “Wicked,” Andrews recalled, the two got into a fight when Andrews suggested leaving a bar early to meet up with some of his friends. Seeing the musical, a favorite of Andrews’, was one of the best times they had together, he said. But later that night, he continued, Khan began ridiculing his body weight, told him to strip naked, forced him onto the ground and then stepped on Andrews’ chest until he started hyperventilating.
Valois denied this allegation on Khan’s behalf. But Andrews reported the incident in his application for the protective order. And, several weeks later, when a threesome Andrews said Khan had pressured him into arranging turned abusive, the couple’s relationship finally reached a breaking point.
Andrews was nervous. In June, on Khan’s instructions, he had posted an ad on FetLife, a social networking site for sexual fetishists, seeking an “attractive, open minded girl” to join him and Khan for a threesome. Sophie, a D.C.-based professional in her early 20s, responded.
By this point in the relationship, Andrews, who had never had a sexual encounter with a woman, had begun to worry that Khan was not so much interested in him as in “what I could contribute to his weird twisted fantasies.” The week before they met Sophie, Andrews expressed these concerns to Khan.
“He assured me he would never kiss her or do anything romantic with her,” Andrews recalled. “He told me I was the only person he trusted.”
On the evening of June 6, the three of them met at a liquor shop in D.C. before making their way back to a room at the Phoenix Park Hotel. Sophie later said in an interview with the News that she remembered Andrews “sweating through his shirt” when they first met. In the hotel room, to cope with his anxiety, Andrews said, he drank about 10 glasses of wine in the hours leading up to the threesome. Then, Sophie and Andrews said, the three undressed.
Valois said Khan “categorically denies participating in any sexual contact between Mr. Andrews and the other woman.”
For Sophie, the first red flag was Khan’s repeated question: “Do you know who I am?” She did not. The second came when Khan approached her from behind, restrained her and began forcing wine down her throat. According to Sophie, this was not something they had discussed in advance.
“I didn’t safeword, which, I guess, would be a little hard since I had a bottle in my mouth,” she said. “But I was not into it.”
Before the threesome began, the three had agreed that Khan would beat Sophie with a paddle. And at first, things went as planned. But soon, Andrews and Sophie both said, the beating grew too intense. Andrews said he yelled at Khan to stop, but to no avail.
“He was hitting me really, really hard — like way too hard …. He left some pretty unacceptable marks on me, like on my face,” Sophie said. “I remember I safeworded at one point. And, listen, I never safeword.”
When the hitting finally came to an end, Andrews and Sophie said, Khan ordered Sophie to penetrate Andrews with a strap-on dildo. Andrews said he refused multiple times, but Khan would not take no for an answer. He told the News that he felt coerced by Khan into allowing Sophie to penetrate him. During the act, Andrews recalled, he tried to use the safeword, “redlight,” but Khan spat in Andrews’ face. The word “only applied to the woman,” Andrews explained, “not for us.”
“It’s not like I wasn’t able to [resist Khan]. I’m physically bigger and definitely stronger than he is. But our entire relationship was this endless cycle of him making me feel insufficient,” Andrews said. “He would also spend a long time tearing me down emotionally before he would do anything physical.”
In a last-ditch effort to make Khan tell Sophie to stop, Andrews remembers saying “Glinda, Glinda, Glinda,” invoking a character in “Wicked” — the musical they had seen together in Indianapolis. Andrews hoped that reminding Khan of a happy time in their relationship would make him relent. Even as he spoke, Andrews said, he began to lose consciousness from a combination of stress and inebriation.
Andrews does not know how long he was unconscious. But when he awoke, he said, Khan was slapping him, and Sophie was still penetrating him.
Valois said Khan denies that Andrews was unconscious while he had sex with Sophie.
“Honestly, my goal was to not be there, mentally,” Andrews recalled. “But I remember waking up to Saif talking to me, asking what I was doing and if I was OK. I just wanted it all to be over faster, so I said I was. I knew it wouldn’t stop until he wanted it to.”
Sophie said she did not sense any reluctance from Andrews while penetrating him because she was too distracted by the sex. Afterward, she said, Andrews seemed “together and alert,” though “a little bit shaken up.”
“I just sort of hoped that this was all part of their relationship,” Sophie said.
It was only when she got home that she realized who Khan was after “two seconds of Googling.”
“I should have Googled this guy,” she said. “I fucked up pretty bad.”
Andrews said he does not blame Sophie for the assault.
On June 10, four days after the threesome, he recalled, he got into an argument with Khan in the hotel room about finances. During the dispute, Andrews said, Khan asked him to hold a towel to the left side of his face, then “violently slapped” him and went to bed. Later that same day, Andrews said, he and Khan ended their relationship.
“To the extent that Mr. Khan slapped anyone,” Valois said, “he did so in self-defense and in order to rebuff an unwanted sexual advance from a deranged individual whom he had previously considered to be a friend, but who became obsessively infatuated with him.”
After the breakup, Andrews resolved to avoid Khan for as long as he could. He returned to Indiana to live with his mother. He helped out with household chores and started taking online classes offered by Southern New Hampshire University. He also decided to convert to Catholicism.
“I had always heard this story about people praying the rosary for the first time, hoping for some intercession during a crisis,” he said.
But, as time passed, Andrews grew increasingly distressed about Khan’s behavior during the threesome. He started to wonder whether Khan really should have been acquitted of the original rape charges dating back to his time at Yale. Andrews now believes there is “a body of evidence” that Khan acted inappropriately toward his first accuser. And by the beginning of August, Andrews had come to the conclusion that Khan sexually assaulted him during the threesome.
“Looking back now at everything I did to help him, it was so heartbreaking for him to turn around and prove everything everyone else said about him right,” Andrews said. “I hoped that Indianapolis was a fluke and that if I just did everything right in D.C. we would be OK. Then I saw he was just a monster who would do anything to satisfy himself.”
BACK TO SCHOOL
This semester, Khan is taking five classes.
He has finished the requirements for the cognitive science major. To structure his time and boost productivity, he said, he makes sure to schedule a class at 11:35 a.m. every day. When Amar, the constitutional law professor, asked Khan if he would feel awkward attending a group discussion section, Khan dismissed the concern.
“I should be treated like a normal student,” he recalled telling Amar.
Still, Khan knows that he is hardly a normal student. His profile photo on the dating app Tinder shows him walking outside the New Haven County Courthouse; the photo appeared on page A17 of The New York Times on May 5, alongside a story about his rape trial. In his Tinder bio, he asked potential matches to “be open to experiences” and “honest about expectations.”
Khan would never go to a party on campus, he said; that would be “too confrontational.” But those constraints have not put an end to his romantic escapades. People have still been hitting on him, he added.
“Let’s just say that I’m off campus,” Khan said with a grin. “That helps.”
Editor’s note: The author of this article is a current member of the Yale Daily News’ managing board of 2020. Generally, the News does not allow editors listed on its masthead to publish content in the newspaper’s daily coverage. However, this story was written and primarily edited while the author was still a staff reporter working under the News’ managing board of 2019, and is thus an exception to the rule.