After three days of a preliminary hearing, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor dismissed the case People v. Armaan Premjee on Wednesday, July 26. Premjee, a rising USC junior, was arrested in April on suspicion of sexual assault.
During the hearing, the prosecution called several witnesses, including two of Premjee's former fraternity brothers and a police investigator for the case. Premjee's attorneys played surveillance video of Premjee and the young woman at Banditos, a bar south of Exposition Park, and at Fluor Tower, the residence hall where the woman lived.
On the second day of the hearing, the prosecution dropped one of the charges against Premjee. On the third and final day, the judge dismissed the case.
Harland Braun, Premjee's attorney, told the Los Angeles Times the dismissal came because of the surveillance video "showed consent."
"I believe there was consent," Pastor said in dismissing the case. "There is a very strong indication that the alleged victim in this case was the initiator."
"I always had faith in the justice system," Premjee said. "I knew I hadn't done anything wrong, and I'm just glad that I'm finally done with it all."
Surveillance video from the bar showed the woman meeting Premjee there. It later appeared to show the woman making sexual gestures behind Premjee's back. The gestures seemed to be directed at one of her friends, and the defense argued that this signaled her willingness to engage with Premjee.
Braun said at the hearing that Premjee and the woman left the bar together on Friday, April 1, in an Uber and traveled to the Kappa Sigma fraternity, where Premjee lived.
Austin Ridgeway, a Kappa Sigma member who was questioned at the hearing by prosecutors, said that he and another member told Premjee the woman could not stay at the fraternity house. Ridgeway said he prevented the door to Premjee's bedroom from being closed and watched as Premjee requested an Uber to take the woman back to Fluor Tower, where she lived.
Surveillance video shows the woman signing Premjee in as a guest at Fluor Tower and the two of them getting into an elevator together, which Premjee's attorneys said signals her intention to bring him upstairs to her room. The video shows the woman beckoning Premjee toward the elevator as well as Premjee and the woman in an embrace, which his attorneys argued indicated further willingness on her part.
Detective Oscar Gamino of the Los Angeles Police Department was an investigator on the case. He said at the hearing that one of the woman's roommates noticed lights on in the Fluor Tower room sometime after 1 a.m. The roommate said she saw a naked male who appeared to be on top of the alleged victim, who was also naked. Gamino described her as "passed out."
The roommates tried to wake the alleged victim by pouring water on her and shaking her, Gamino said. She tried to get up twice and fell both times, and the roommates contacted their RA, who called the USC Department of Public Safety, who in turn called an ambulance.
Gamino said he spoke with the alleged victim at around 11 a.m. at the hospital where she was taken. She seemed groggy to him, and she asked him why she was at the hospital. She said she did not remember meeting Premjee. The detective later interviewed a doctor at the hospital, who said the woman was treated for alcohol poisoning and was nearly unconscious when she arrived. Doctors also detected traces of marijuana in her blood.
The woman's roommate said she often used alcohol and marijuana and described her behavior to Gamino as "out of control."
Braun, Premjee's attorney, argued the woman's multiple gestures in the videos at the bar and at Fluor Tower demonstrated consent. Gamino said the alleged victim told him she did not remember making those gestures or meeting Premjee at all.
Despite the dismissal of the criminal case, USC's Title IX office is continuing its investigation. The university said in a statement that "USC's investigation, which is still in process, is required by the federal government and must be independently conducted to its conclusion even when a parallel criminal process has ended."
Braun said that he has been banned from USC's campus by Title IX Coordinator Gretchen Dahlinger Means. According to Braun, the Title IX office is trying to prevent him from representing Premjee.
USC said that Braun has not been banned from campus. However, the university said, "Mr. Braun was recently informed that he would need to send another lawyer from his firm or another individual of his client's choosing to attend any further meetings in the investigation. This occurred after repeated warnings that his disruptive and unprofessional behavior was violating USC policy and impeding the process required by federal law."
It was not immediately clear how Braun behaved or what policy he violated.
After his criminal case was dismissed, Premjee said he was hopeful that the Title IX office will also dismiss his case.
"If a judge finds me innocent, then there should be no reason why the university should take any unfair or unjust action against me," he said.
Evan Lubin, the president of USC's chapter of Kappa Sigma, said in April that Premjee was expelled from the chapter after the alleged incident.
Premjee was initially arrested on Tuesday, April 11 and released after posting $100,000 bail the same day. The investigation was handled by the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division, which USC DPS Assistant Chief David Carlisle said was unusual. Typically, the LAPD Southwest Division investigates sexual assault cases among students at USC.
Premjee will be returning to USC in the fall as a junior, and he said he is looking forward to getting back to school. He is majoring in business administration.
Reach Executive Producer Sanika Bhargaw here.