Indian American University of Southern California student Armaan Premjee, who has been accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated young woman, categorically stated he did not rape her.
“Arshia initiated sexual contact with me,” Premjee told India-West in a candid interview, using only the first name of the alleged victim, who has been named in that manner in court documents. “I didn’t drink with her, didn’t offer her alcohol. I had no way of knowing how much she had to drink before we met,” said the Southern California-born man who grew up in Mumbai.
Premjee also noted that Arshia – who also grew up in Mumbai – did not want to press charges, and told police she could not remember that night.
After initially meeting April 1 at Banditos Tequila and Taco club – less than a mile away from the USC campus – the two took an Uber back to the university, and engaged in their brief encounter in a common area of Arshia’s dorm, he recalled. Arshia’s roommate found the pair, and called the resident assistant (see earlier India-West story here).
Premjee was contacted later that day by the Los Angeles Police Department, after Arshia was taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. He was arrested on charges of sexual assault and sexual penetration with a foreign object – he used his fingers during the encounter, violating Section 289 of the California Penal Code – and held on $100,000. Premjee, who is a U.S. citizen, made bail and was released the same day; he initially faced 10 years in state prison.
USC’s rules and California law state that a person who is intoxicated is not capable of giving valid, affirmative consent. Affirmative or active consent is defined as a verbal “yes.” In this case, the alleged victim was not capable of giving valid consent, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office.
The DA’s office in May recommended that Premjee’s bail be increased to $1 million, noting he was a flight risk. But Premjee told India-West that he could not have fled the country, as a bail bondsman was holding his passport.
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor ruled July 26 during a preliminary hearing that there was insufficient evidence to show Premjee had raped Arshia. Pastor noted that he had reviewed videotapes from surveillance cameras at Banditos and Arshia’s dorm building.
“As I evaluate the totality of the evidence from the initial encounter between Arshia and the defendant, Mr. Premjee, I believe that there was consent and there remained consent throughout the unfortunate incidents in this case,” ruled Pastor.
“There is no indication of any withdrawal of consent. There is a very strong indication that the alleged victim in this case was the initiator of any conduct between the defendant and the alleged victim,” ruled the judge.
“That doesn't mean necessarily because the alleged victim was the instigator of any conduct, but it is a fact to be evaluated, and the continuing nature of consent is evident to this court,” noted Pastor in his ruling.
The tapes – which were provided to India-West – show the young woman approaching Premjee at the crowded, dimly-lit Banditos and briefly engaging in conversation. At some point, the woman put her arms around Premjee, and the pair began deep kissing.
Arshia sat on the bar before she was asked to step down, according to the video footage, which shows the pair exiting the bar and taking selfies with other friends before getting into an Uber.
In the Uber, Premjee alleged that Arshia continued to instigate sexual contact with him, straddling his lap in the back seat, in view of other passengers and the driver.
Premjee is a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity; the pair initially went to his frat house. But the house was on social probation; a frat brother told Premjee that Arshia was a risk to the house.
The pair got into another Uber and went to Arshia’s dorm. Premjee told India-West he sat in the front seat this time, with Arshia in the back, as he felt uncomfortable about the previous encounter. On the way up to the dorm building, Premjee said he told Arshia he wanted to hold off on having sex.
“I prefer sex when people are sober,” he told India-West, adding that he told Arshia he felt things were moving too quickly and that they should get to know each other first.
“Why are you being such a good boy? Be a bad boy,” Arshia allegedly told him, according to Premjee. “She was on a mission,” he said.
USC is continuing its investigation of the case; Premjee, a junior studying business administration, could be expelled if he is found guilty of misconduct by the school.
“In the past, they have expelled students who have been found innocent in court. It is a very biased process. USC uses a lower standard of proof,” said Premjee, who said he was worried about being expelled.
Armaan Premjee is the son of Karim Premjee, founder of Lord’s Shoes in Mumbai. After he finishes his studies at USC, Premjee said he hopes to develop his father’s business online, and also wants to work in real estate development.