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Blockbuster Lawsuit Filed Against 15 Women’s Rights Organizations for Defamation

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Contact: Lawrence DeMarco, LLM

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Blockbuster Lawsuit Filed Against 15 Women’s Rights Organizations for Defamation

WASHINGTON / May 31, 2024 —   Saifullah Khan, a former Yale University student who was acquitted of rape charges in 2018, has filed a defamation lawsuit against 15 prominent women’s rights organizations. (1) The lawsuit alleges that despite Khan’s acquittal in a court of law, the defendants falsely labeled him a “rapist” in a legal filing, causing severe damage to his reputation. (2)

Khan, an Afghan refugee who came to the United States as a child, was a full scholarship student at Yale University. In 2015, he was accused of sexual assault by a female classmate following a Halloween party. Following a highly publicized trial in 2018, the jury found Khan not guilty on all charges. (3)

Despite the acquittal, Yale University launched an internal disciplinary proceeding, found him responsible for sexual misconduct, and expelled him. Khan then sued Yale in 2019 for $110 million, claiming the university had denied him due process. (4)

Normally, accusers are granted immunity by courts when they testify in a legal proceeding. But in this case, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled last June that Yale’s disciplinary procedures lacked adequate due process protections to provide the accuser immunity for her testimony, allowing Khan’s accuser to be potentially held liable for defamation (5).

Two weeks ago, Khan expanded his legal battle, filing a new defamation suit against 15 women’s rights organizations, including the National Women’s Law Center, Legal Momentum, Jewish Women International, and others. (6) The complaint alleges these groups falsely characterized Khan as a “rapist” and made other defamatory statements in a legal filing, which caused him substantial reputational harm.

“I was acquitted in a court of law, yet trusted and powerful organizations continued to defame me,” stated Khan.  He further explained that he doesn’t have a national agenda, but just wants to clear his name. (1)

The defendants, with combined assets exceeding $200 million, have not yet publicly responded to the suit. However, the case is likely to raise important questions about the boundaries of protected speech versus defamation in the context of sexual misconduct allegations during school hearings.