A former radio reporter and managing news editor for WYPR has been acquitted of assault charges stemming from a fight with his son on Halloween, 2013. Sunni Khalid, who previously also worked for NPR and The Baltimore Sun, stabbed his son Hassan in the arm and the abdomen during the altercation at his house in Joppa, in Harford County.
“My son is two inches taller, 30 years younger, and 30 pounds heavier [than I],” Khalid told City Paper previously. “He put me in a choke hold. I was blacking out.”
Harford Sheriff’s deputies arrived and arrested Khalid, who was held in jail for five days. He says the deputies never interviewed him or other potential witnesses.
The incident prompted a divorce, which was final in December. Khalid has moved to Northern California.
The assault trial lasted only a day and the jury—eight men and one woman, all white—deliberated about three hours before finding Khalid not guilty on May 20, according to Khalid and his lawyer, Ty Kelly.
“It was the right result. It was a great result,” Kelly says. “We are really glad the jury recognized that the state abysmally failed to meet its burden.”
The defense had two main theories, Kelly says: first, that the victim’s testimony was inconsistent both with prior recitations of the incident in family court and internally—he could not consistently say whether he had put his father in a headlock, for example—and secondly, that the sheriff’s department did not properly investigate the case. The victim had two friends in the house when the events transpired, for example, but the deputies who responded “didn’t follow up on one lead,” Kelly says. “The police never interviewed the two other guys.”
Sunni Khalid says they did not interview him either, even though he offered to speak to investigators in the presence of a lawyer.
“My son’s testimony was impeached,” Khalid says. “The deputies basically said they did not do an investigation.”
Khalid’s former wife works at the sheriff’s office. “That is why I believe this went on,” he says of her employment. “They said we take care of our own.”
Kelly says Khalid’s ex sat in the courtroom during the trial, “literally with her fingers over her ears as I gave my final summation.”
She did not respond to a phone message from City Paper.
Khalid says he borrowed money from friends and family to hire lawyers, including Kelly, a former federal prosecutor, and Clarke Ahlers. Without them, he says he thinks he would have been forced into a plea deal with prison time. With them, “you’re an African-American Muslim who was acquitted by an all-white jury in a conservative county,” he says.
Still, Khalid says, he’s lost his marriage and his home. “I mean, I felt sorry. I feel sorry for my son that he felt compelled to give false testimony in a court of law,” Khalid says. “I didn’t teach him to lie.
“Despite what happened, I still love my children, and I always will,” Khalid says. “I forgive my oldest son.”