A county district court judge ruled yesterday that there was sufficient evidence to-convict University police chief Saul L. Chafin on a charge of assault, but decided instead to continue the case without a finding for a year.
The judge's decision means the case will be dismissed in July of next year if Chafin is not involved in similar trouble.
"The Commonwealth has made its case beyond a reasonable doubt, but a finding of guilty is not essential for justice in this matter." Judge Robert Nixon said, after a day-long trial.
Chafin was accused of assaulting Steven R. Verr '79 on February 10. Verr, now a student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, testified yesterday that, after he called Chafin a "lackey," the chief jabbed him with his index finger, grabbed him in a headlock, and "pummeled" him.
Verr said he may now file a civil suit against Chafin in connection with the incident. "Based on what the judge found. I think a civil suit would sail through." Verr said, adding he would be more likely to file suit if Harvard withheld financial aid funds or took other action against him.
University officials were unavailable for comment yesterday on the ruling. Sources said earlier in the summer, however, that Chafin was in no danger of losing his job regardless of how the trial turned out.
Detailed descriptions of a brief encounter between Chafin and Verr dominated the four hours of testimony. Verr, the only witness called by the prosecution, said he called Chafin a "lackey" after the chief refused to divulge the reasons behind a meeting he had requested with the student. Chafin said University officials had informed him Verr had been expelled, and said he had therefore summoned him to tell him he was "being terminated" as a student security guard.
When Verr did not know of the expulsion--which has since been revoked--Chafin made several calls during the meeting to Harvard officials asking for confirmation. When he repeatedly refused to tell Verr who he had called or what they had said. Verr referred to Chafin as a "lackey" at least twice, and the altercation ensued.
Several police officers who were nearby at the time testified for the defense, but in a few key places their stories were tangled and contradictory. One witness--security guard Joseph Hale--said he came into the