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Dotcom Before The Storm

An alleged rape victim turns to crowdsourcing in her civil suit against a prominent Portland software executive.

A new lawsuit accuses a leading Portland software entrepreneur of sexual assault, and his accuser has taken the extraordinary step of trying to crowdsource $11,500 to help pay for her civil case against him.

The woman claims she was raped by tech millionaire Nitin Khanna when she worked as a hairdresser and makeup artist for his wedding in September 2012. Khanna, through his attorney, denies the allegations. 

Khanna made his name as a co-founder of Saber Corp., a company that produces government software to process voter registration, driver's licenses and child-support payments across the country, including in Oregon. After he and his brother sold Saber for $420 million in 2007, Khanna founded MergerTech, which finances buyouts and mergers of small tech firms.

In her lawsuit, filed Jan. 14 in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the woman alleges the assault took place at the Allison Inn in Newberg during preparation for Khanna's Sept. 22, 2012, wedding. The woman stayed at the inn as part of her agreement. According to the lawsuit, Khanna forced her to have sex with him repeatedly the night before the wedding. The woman is seeking $2.285 million in damages.

Newberg police records show the woman remained at the weekend wedding event and didn't report the assault until three days later.

Police did not bring charges. Newburg police investigated her allegations and found evidence that DNA matched Khanna with semen found on the woman's dress.

During the investigation, the woman hired Scott Upham, a former Washington County district attorney, to represent her. Upham clashed with the Yamhill County district attorney's office, which asked the Oregon Department of Justice to determine if a criminal case should go forward.

The state's review concluded in May 2013 that there was not "sufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt."

The civil suit allows the woman to attempt to bring the allegations into court, even without criminal charges. To do so, she took the extraordinary step of trying to of trying to crowdsource money to help finance a civil suit against Khanna.

On the site, the woman identifies herself but does not name Khanna. As part of her detailed account of what happened, she says a rape test kit was not administered after she reported the incident, a standard step in sexual assault cases. She also explained why she delayed reporting the assault.

"There were 200 of his closest friends and family there and I was afraid for my safety," she wrote on the site. "I stayed and did the hair and makeup, because I was afraid he would sue me for breach of contract if I left, and there was no discreet way to leave.  I was scared that he or one of his family members would hurt me.”

She also wrote that Upham agreed to take her case but that she needed to raise the $11,500 "for court costs, filing, court time, flying out witnesses that were in the room, putting them up in hotels, doing subpoenas and depositions, paying experts for their time and testimony, etc."

The woman has raised $4,670 so far and has until mid-March to meet her goal.

Upham says he's outraged the Yamhill County DA's office never took the case before a grand jury, and he accuses prosecutors of being afraid to take on a wealthy suspect.

"They want mathematical certainty in these high-profile, rich-and-famous politician and celebrity cases," Upham says. "They don't want to lose because it looks bad in the press."

Yamhill County Deputy District Attorney Lisl Miller said the decision not to prosecute was based solely on the evidence. "It didn't have anything to do with who the defendant was, or who the suspect was," Miller says.

Records show Khanna has declined to answer police questions. His attorney, Kevin Sali, acknowledges hiring a private investigator to check out the woman's allegations. 

"Any time there are accusations leveled, my goal as a defense attorney is to get to the truth," he says. "That's absolutely standard practice."

Sali declined to comment on the evidence in the case, including the DNA results. "I can't comment on that, certainly in the context of ongoing litigation," he says. "What I can tell you is that [Khanna] categorically denies the accusations that [the woman] has made.”