Santa Clara County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Allison Marston Danner is reviewing the plea deal of an Indian American Silicon Valley executive who was sentenced to 30 days of jail time for spousal abuse; his wife has accused him of abusing her for about a decade.
Benjamin Rada, media spokesman for the Santa Clara Superior Court, told India-West that Danner held a hearing April 28 and ordered a full probation report for Abhishek Gattani, former CEO of Cuberon, who was charged with misdemeanor “offensive touching” and felony accessory after the fact. Gattani is married to Neha Rastogi, a former Apple engineer who now works as a product manager at Walmart Labs.
In the plea agreement he made with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, Gattani was sentenced to six months in jail, but will only be incarcerated for 30 days. The balance of his sentence will be served in a weekend-work program, doing manual labor for eight-hour shifts.
Danner also ordered sentencing memos from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, and the defense. The DA has already submitted its memo, defending what many in the Indian American community have called an extremely lenient plea deal.
In its memo, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Assistant DA Brian Welch have suggested that – if the case went to trial – the defense would likely argue that Rastogi had a “motive to embellish the domestic violence and its impact on their daughter,” as the couple are in the midst of an acrimonious divorce.
The defense has about a month to submit its memo.
The judge also ordered that an audio recording – taken on Rastogi’s cell phone, in which Gattani can be heard allegedly repeatedly slapping his wife and calling her offensive expletives – be transcribed and authenticated. She also re-set a hearing initially scheduled for May 18 to June 15, confirmed Rada.
The couple, who have a three-year-old daughter, live in Sunnyvale, Calif. Rastogi filed for divorce in 2016. Cuberon no longer lists Gattani as its CEO.
In a lengthy and powerful court statement – which she was allowed to read only after the plea deal had been agreed to, reportedly without her consent – Rastogi said that Gattani had struck her while she was nursing their six-day-old daughter, saying she was doing it incorrectly. She also alleged that he had threatened to kill her and their daughter.
Rastogi also alleged that she had been flung to the floor by her husband, and kicked in the belly on several occasions.
In California, the punishment for felony spousal abuse can range from one to four years in jail.
A spokesman for the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office told India-West that Rosen “sought an immigration-neutral disposition of the case that would lower the risk for Gattani to be deported back to India.”
San Francisco Bay Area attorney Madan Ahluwalia, who got more than 10,700 signatures on a petition he delivered to Danner to overturn the plea deal for Gattani, told India-West he was extremely pleased that the judge is reviewing the case. He thanked the Indian American community for coming to Rastogi’s defense.
Ahluwalia explained that Danner now has a few options: she can completely set aside the plea deal and order the case to be tried; or she can accept the plea deal, but issue a different sentence, such as mandating that Gattani serve his entire six months in jail, with no community service time.
Danner can also let the plea deal and the sentence stand. She could also mandate a higher fine.
“The DA's memo and the court’s orders leads me to believe that now this case is well balanced and the judge will make right decision by weighing all the necessary factors,” said Ahluwalia.
“At the very bottom of all this effort for me was community awareness of domestic violence. I feel we have accomplished this.”
“If we can save one battered spouse and put one bad egg behind bars, I am a happy and satisfied man. Every human being deserves to be respected and right to safety is a fundamental right,” said Ahluwalia.
But the DA’s memo – a copy of which was obtained by India-West – seeks to defend the contentious plea deal by noting that Gattani’s attorney would likely poke holes into much of Rastogi’s testimony.
In the sentencing memo signed by District Attorney Rosen, Assistant DA Welch, who prepared the statement, noted that the defense would argue that Rastogi had claimed she was beaten by Gattani when she was eight months pregnant. In fact, Rastogi had delivered her baby three months earlier, according to the memo.
Defense counsel would also likely discredit a photo presented by Rastogi, which shows bruising on her thigh, allegedly after being punched by Gattani. Rastogi allegedly took the photo several days later, and initially told family she had hit her leg on her desk, according to the prosecutor’s sentencing memo.
Prosecutors also said the defense would attempt to discredit the 2016 audio recording in which Gattani can be heard allegedly repeatedly hitting his wife, for her failure to solve a software bug. They noted that there was no video evidence of the incident, and that Rastogi did not take contemporaneous photos of possible resulting injuries. Therefore, they said, there was no evidence to prove a “traumatic condition,” which is necessary to charge spousal abuse as a felony.
Gattani was previously charged in 2013 with a misdemeanor, when a postal worker called 911 to report that a woman was being physically assaulted in the street outside the couple’s home. Multiple witnesses reported to police that Gattani was “pushing and pulling Rastogi along the sidewalk while punching her with a closed fist in the side and back multiple times.”
But Rastogi got her husband a good defense lawyer and would not testify against him at his trial. He subsequently pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace.
A spokesman for the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office told India-West that in the 2013 case, the arresting officer did not record any evidence of injury on Rastogi. Felony spousal abuse can only be charged if the suspect inflicts physical injury on the victim and that injury results in a traumatic condition, such as a wound or other bodily injury caused by the direct application of physical force, he explained.
In the sentencing memo, the prosecutors also noted that Rastogi would have had to suffer more severe injuries – other than redness and bruising – for Gattani to be charged with felony spousal abuse.
Prosecutors noted that Rastogi initially told police there had been prior instances of domestic violence, but then recanted that statement in an attempt to persuade prosecutors to reduce the charges against her husband.