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Justice for Neha Rastogi former Silicon Valley tech CEO Abhishek Gattani pled no contest to one count of felony accessory and one count of offensive touching, a misdemeanor, in May 2017 after he was caught on audio assaulting his estranged wife, Neha Rastogi. In the recording, it was determined he slapped Rastogi nine times. Despite the glaring evidence, a Palo Alto court accepted a plea deal that resulted in Gattani serving just 13 days in jail for the crime.
The deal comes on the heels of a 2015 California state law that urges prosecutors to consider options to reduce deportations. Gattani is a native of India and in the United States on a green card. While he could have been charged with more serious crimes, Rastogi, an American citizen, attests he was charged with lesser crimes to protect his immigration status. Immigrants convicted of violent felonies are subject to deportation. Accessory, however, is not considered to be a violent crime.
“The system has shown me that concerns over Abhishek’s immigration status have completely trampled rights of my daughter, and my own,” she said in an article by The Associated Press.
The 2017 case wasn’t Gattani’s first domestic violence conviction either. In 2015, he was convicted of disturbing the peace after a mail carrier reportedly witnessed him “pummeling” Rastogi. But that conviction was expunged after Gattani completed a domestic violence class and the couple requested Gattani’s early release from probation.
Rastogi has been outspoken about her feelings on her husband’s convictions and sentences. In April, she released the victim impact letter she read to the judge during the 2017 trial in which she detailed the abuse she endured during her 10-year marriage. In one part, she outlines how Gattani told her he would kill her and then himself, and that their then 2-year-old daughter would be “collateral damage.”
At the sentencing, Rastogi told the judge, “My abuse continued, by proxy, by the court system. Domestic violence is truly terrorism and should be termed such,” according to an article in The Mercury News.
Many of Rastogi’s supporters echo her outrage, saying making concessions to protect an abuser’s immigration status only perpetuates the idea that domestic violence isn’t a serious issue.
On a Facebook page dedicated to the case, Justice for Neha Rastogi, Raksha Inc. posted: “From Ms. Rastogi’s victim impact statement, it is clear that the legal process did not adequately center or reflect her concerns. The duration and violent extent of the trauma and abuse she and her daughter endured were minimized … [and] Ms. Rastogi’s own wishes in terms of the nature of the charges that should have been brought … were apparently ignored.”
What Is ‘Fair’ in Domestic Violence Punishments?
Former LA County prosecutor and current criminal defense attorney Lisa Houle says she believes the law encouraging prosecutors to consider alternatives to deportation are fair to the defendant.
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“Everything needs to be looked at in totality,” she says. “If you are trying to give equal consequences, deportation must be considered. You have to consider the collateral consequences in addition to punishment.”
Houle says deportation is an added layer of punishment that citizens who are convicted of the same crimes don’t have to face. “I think immigration status should be factored in, that it should be considered to make sure one person isn’t being more severely punished than another,” she says. Which begs the question, does a survivor who’s abused by an immigrant hurt less than a survivor who is abused by a citizen?
To read more domestic-violence-related stories that are making headlines, check out our In the News page.
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