A now-former Univerisity of New Mexico professor accused of groping a student on the job pleaded no contest to the charges Wednesday as part of a plea deal. What’s more, prosecutors and the judge let him off with probation, and the charges could be wiped from his record.
A former math professor at the UNM Valencia campus was accused of preying on a female undergrad on campus during the spring 2017 semester. “I think it’s surprising for any teacher to do that because you know, we trust them to teach the future generation,” Calgary Maez, a UNM student, said.
According to UNM police records, Professor Khaled Kassem, who resigned after the accusations surfaced, fondled a student who needed his help with class work in his classroom, office, and in a hallway. The student is now suing Kassem and UNM for what happened.
“There were episodes of inappropriate touching and inappropriate advances of both verbal and physical by the defendant towards our client, which really dramatically impacted her ability to even go to school and her ability to feel safe there,” attorney Mike Hart said.
The report goes on to say the victim was “unable to get away” and trapped by Kassem after he touched her breast and buttocks. Police say campus surveillance video backed up some of the woman’s claims.
Kassem originally denied the allegations, but on Wednesday he pleaded no contest. He also pled no contest to a second charge of battery.
The crimes carry up to a year in jail, but under the plea deal, the DA’s office and Judge Cyndi Mercer gave him a sentence of six months supervised probation.
KRQE News 13 spoke to a former of Kassem’s, who asked to remain anonymous. That student believes there should have been a tougher punishment.
“Nowadays you can’t take these things lightly because if you do just do basic slaps on the wrist it just further perpetuates this type of behavior,” the student said.
If Kassem completes his probation on good terms the charges could be wiped from his record altogether. If he violates his probation, he can face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
KRQE News 13 asked UNM if other female students had complained about Kassem’s behavior when he was a professor, but the university did not provide an answer to that question.