SAN FRANCISCO – The estranged wife of a Silicon Valley CEO says his domestic violence plea deal is too lenient and that justice is being thwarted by efforts to ensure he isn't removed from the country.
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Abhishek Gattani, co-founder of customer analytics startup Cuberon and a native of India, had been charged with felony domestic violence after his wife, former Apple engineer Neha Rastogi, said he beat her. But in a deal with prosecutors Gattani pleaded no contest to felony accessory and a misdemeanor count of offensive touching.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday that Rastogi said Gattani, 37, got a reduction of charges because of possible immigration consequences. A 2015 state law requires prosecutors to consider ways to head off deportations.
The Associated Press generally does not name victims of abuse but Karen Ewart, a paralegal at the law firm representing Rastogi in her divorce and custody proceedings, said Rastogi has spoken publicly to draw attention to the domestic violence case.
Prosecutors agreed to a six-month jail term, to be served through a weekend work program with 30 days of incarceration. With credits, Gattani could spend 15 days in custody after he's sentenced June 15.
The case began last July when Rastogi told police that Gattani — with whom she has a 3-year-old daughter — had beaten her. It came to a head April 13, when Rastogi ripped the plea deal in Santa Clara County Superior Court, prompting a judge to postpone sentencing.
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"The system has shown me that concerns over Abhishek's immigration status have completely trampled rights of my daughter, and my own," Rastogi said.
People without full citizenship are more likely to be deported when convicted of violent felonies, according to the Chronicle.
In an April 28 memo to the court, District Attorney Brian Welch defended the plea deal as tough and took into account several factors, including the strength of the evidence, inconsistent statements in the past by Rastogi, and the likelihood of winning a conviction if the case went to trial.
"Ms. Rastogi laments that Defendant is once again getting a reduction of felony domestic violence charges because of possible immigration consequences, as he did in 2013, but that is not so," Welch wrote, referring to Gattani's previous arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence.
While the 2013 case ended with Gattani pleading out to a misdemeanor count of disturbing the peace, "Defendant's immigration status was only one factor in the decision to offer that disposition," Welch wrote, "just as it is only one factor in the current case."
Prosecutors said the deal was consistent with a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015, which requires prosecutors to "consider the avoidance of adverse immigration consequences in the plea negotiation process as one factor in an effort to reach a just resolution." They noted that Gattani has been in the country lawfully since 2003, has a child who is a U.S. citizen, and employs nine people at his company.
While Rastogi is a U.S. citizen, Gattani is believed to have a green card, according to court documents.
Rastogi, 35, declined to be interviewed. Ewart called the plea "a sweetheart deal."
Rastogi criticized the deal while making a victim-impact statement to the court.
Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com