Members of the Berkeley City Council voted 7 to 2 to endorse these resolutions, which concluded with a long statement about the horrors of the escalating international slave trade in women and girls for mens' sexual gratification, as well as the charges brought against Reddy.
Interpreters Charged with Bias and Undue Influence
George Cotsirilos, the Attorney for the Defense, tried to discredit the validity of the victims' charges against the Lakireddys on the grounds that two, and possibly three, of the Telugu (the language spoken by the female victims) interpreters had shown bias against his clients. He charged Bharat Koner, the president of the Telugu Society, with bias for having written a letter to Judge Armstrong urging her to deal harshly with the Lakireddys as well as participating in a demonstration outside the Pasand Restaurant on behalf of the victims. Cotsirilos also accused Nalini Shekhar of participating in the same demonstration as well as having developed a “special relationship” with the victims that was unprofessional and contrary to the objectivity required of interpreters.
Judge Armstrong noted that Cotsirilos charges against these two interpreters did not prove that they had influenced the girls or had done their jobs incorrectly.
Cotsirilos reserved his most serious charges for interpreter Uma Rao. In addition to having participated in a demonstration for the victims and having a “special relationship” with the victims, Cotsirilos charged Rao with getting some of them to lie so as to exaggerate the charges against his clients. In court papers filed on October 16, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Corrigan — appointed as the prosecutor after John Kennedy was promoted to a Judgeship — “acknowledged that four of the six victims in the conspiracy were encouraged to 'embellish the facts' by Uma Rao” (Sexton, Daily Cal., Oct. 29, 2001, p. 5). In addition, Corrigan conceded that “Two of those victims admitted to lying to the government.” Note that the words “acknowledged” and “admitted” both assume that the girls' retractions of charges against Prasad, Vijay and Jayaprakash and their blaming of Rao were valid rather than exploring whether their fear for their own lives as well as their families in Velvadam may have motivated them to retract some of their earlier statements and blame Rao for pressing them to exaggerate the abuse.
People who are knowledgeable about the dynamics of sexual abuse do not presume that retractions are always valid, even when the victims' fear is not salient to the case.WASS subscribe to this explanation for the victims' allegations against Rao. We deplore what we see as Cotsirilos's strategy to try to use his charges against the interpreters as a means to discredit the validity of the victims' accusations against their perpetrators. We see this as a transparent ploy by the Defense.For reasons unknown, the Indian government has refused to investigate these murders, according to Corrigan. He also referred to “threats directed at other witnesses.” However, he didn't draw the obvious conclusion that these threats could be responsible for the girls' retraction of some of their charges against the accused. We in
Rao's attorney denied that Rao is guilty of influencing some of the girls to “embellish” their testimony. Nevertheless, he “counseled her to assert her 5th Amendment privilege” unless she was given immunity. Rao, who had to return to India to take care of her ailing mother, was subpoenaed and required to return to the U.S. to appear in court.
On December 12, 2001, Judge Armstrong recused herself from the Reddy cases claiming a conflict of interest. Judge Claudia Wilken was appointed in her place. This resulted in considerable delay in the proceedings.
Judge Wilken accommodated Reddy's request for a luxury prison in a similar fashion. As Poole noted, the profoundly classist character of the judicial system is very conspicuous in this case. Classism is also revealed by the minimal sentences received by the three Reddys who had been sentenced to date.
On November 27, 2000, immigrant attorneys working together with the ACLU, filed a civil suit charging that “...the causes of [Chanti Prattipati's] death were exposure to fumes from a dangerous, defective, and negligently maintained gas heating system at 2020 Bancroft Way and the failure of defendant Lakireddy Bali Reddy to secure prompt medical attention for her after such exposure” (Berkeley Daily Planet, 11/30/2000, p. 1).
This suit included a wrongful death charge brought by Lalitha who, unlike her older sister, survived the carbon monoxide fumes. A large number of Reddy's other victims were plaintiffs in this case, some of whom have been brought to the Bay Area from India to testify at the trial.
Lakireddy Bali Reddy Released from Prison
Lakireddy Bali Reddy was released from prison on April 2, 2008. There was no media coverage of the event. He quietly took up residence in a new palacial mansion that was built for him in the Berkeley hills while he was in prison. He is currently registered as a sex offender on the State of California Attorney General's Megan's List.