Zainali Jaffer, the founder and former CEO of video advertising platform Vungle, was arrested in October on a number of charges, including child abuse and “oral copulation of a person under 14.” On Monday, a judge granted the district attorney’s motion to dismiss all the charges against him citing a lack of convincing evidence.
Jaffer reportedly took two prescription medications which, when taken together, unknowingly caused “an adverse psychological reaction,” Axios reported. There were seven charges filed against Jaffer last year, including forcible lewd act on a child, assault with a deadly weapon, and battery on a police officer, according to court records.
According to San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, Jaffer’s father called the police in the middle of the night following a violent altercation with him. When the police arrived, Jaffer was holding his son down and proceeded to grab him in the crotch area. He was unresponsive to police commands to get up and put his hands up, Wagstaffe told Gizmodo. However, after reviewing footage from police body cams, a martial arts expert told prosecutors during the defense that Jaffer was engaging in a jiu-jitsu hold—although police reasonably misconstrued that his behavior was sexual, Wagstaffe said.
Insufficient evidence prompted prosecutors to reexamine Jaffer’s case, and they were unable to prove that Jaffer’s misconduct was a result of “voluntary intoxication,” San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“You can’t just take a hallucinogen and excuse yourself of all responsibility,” San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Sharon Cho told San Francisco Chronicle. “In this case initially we believed that’s what occurred—that the defendant had ingested LSD and then he committed the crimes.” However, Cho said they later found he had not ingested LSD. “Ultimately, the people have the burden of proving that’s not the case, and when we reevaluated, we felt the evidence was not such that we could meet that burden.”
Cho added that this doesn’t mean Jaffer’s misconduct didn’t happen. California has a legal defense of unconsciousness, which means that a defendant cannot be charged for their actions if they are not aware of what they are doing, and if the cause of their unconsciousness is not voluntary. Wagstaffe noted that the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Jaffer was conscious of what he did or that he voluntarily took a drug, and they couldn’t prove either of those things.
“Given the information given to us, we just can’t prove that what resulted was voluntary intoxication versus this was someone suffering from a mental breakdown and in some kind of psychosis,” Cho told the Chronicle.
“I was incredibly fortunate that I was able to defend myself through the legal system, but I am aware that many others are not,” Jaffer said in a statement, Axios reported. “Moving forward, I plan on examining ways that I can help others who are innocent and are seeking to obtain justice.”
Vungle provides in-app video ads and has worked with clients including Warner Brothers, Sony, Unilever, and Nickelodeon. The ad tech startup said it hit a $300 million revenue run rate last year and has been launching new products in the aftermath of Jaffer’s scandal and departure. But the former CEO may reportedly try to inch his way back into a leadership position at Vungle, where he still holds the most shares in the company.