Ahmad Hezam, 45, of Durham Is charged with second degree sexual offense, a Class C felony that carries a maximum sentence of 227 months in prison if convicted. Duke campuspolice arrested Hezam at his apartment on MorreneRoad.
“We are grateful for the community’s quick response to provide critical information in the investigation,” said Kyle Cavanaugh, Duke University vice president for administration. “Because of this information, we were able to make an arrest within 24 hours of the incident.”
Police said Hezam picked up a group of students, including his alleged victim, on Thursday at a bar near downtown around 1:45 a.m. The female student was the last passenger at Science Drive on Duke’s West campus.
According to court records, Hezam “engaged in a sex offense while the (alleged victim) was at the time ‘physically helpless.’” Investigators said the student was able to escape and run away.
Hezam, a native of Iraq, came to Durham to work three years ago, according to friends who asked not to be identified. They said he has a wife and four small children.
Hezam’s friend, who identified himself as a taxi driver, said the incident may be a misunderstanding because the student left her phone in Hezam’s cab.
“He just said he didn’t do it. He said he held the lady to give back her phone because he said she left her phone in his vehicle,” he said.
He added that they often transport intoxicated passengers from the same area where Hezam picked up his passengers. Investigators have not said whether alcohol was a factor in the alleged incident.
“I don’t think he did it. If he did it, he did a big mistake,” he said.
They openly wept in court as an Arabic interpreter on speakerphone translated the charges against him and his legal options. Hezam agreed to a court appointed attorney.
“I will hire my own attorney because I haven’t committed this felony,” Hezam told to the judge through an interpreter.