Sexual harassment, criminal sentencing, and immigration have been hot button issues in the news of late. There are the allegations against Fox’s Roger Ailes, and questions over how the Trump administration will approach criminal justice. There are debates over federal funding for sanctuary cities, not to mention the problem of H1B visas after various iterations of Trump’s travel bans. And then there is one story in particular that blends all three national conversations in a complex and urgent legal case. That would be the allegations of domestic abuse levied by Apple alumna Neha Rastogi against her husband, former Cuberon CEO Abhishek Gattani.
According to the Daily Beast, Gattani and Rastogi seemed to have a fairly ordinary life in Silicon Valley. Both Indian American, the pair had entered into an arranged marriage—something Rastgoi felt connected her with the “romance” of Indian culture. They shared a modest Sunnyvale home and traveled back to India occasionally to see family. Each has successful careers, and Rastogi in particular has worked for household name companies like Adobe, Cisco, and Flip Video. But, according to Rastogi, it was only a few months in to their marriage that Gattani’s anger issues surfaced. In 2013, Gattani was arrested for beating Rastogi on the sidewalk outside their home when a postal worker called the police. He was given a felony assault charge, but Rastogi stayed in the marriage afterwards. It wasn’t until Rastogi had accumulated a series of videos capturing audio proof of the abuse and photographs of her bruises that she worked up the courage to go back to the police and try to get out of her marriage. She says she was afraid her husband would kill her.
Despite having more evidence than many victims, and despite her husband’s prior felony conviction, Rastogi’s case quickly hit a series of roadblocks. The Daily Beast details how Gattani was arrested after Rastogi took her recordings to the police, but was almost immediately released without bail. It was only thanks to her familiarity with the iPhone that she was able to track his location and see he was headed to their home, giving her an opportunity to hide and avoid another altercation. After Gattani’s release, Rastogi held out hope for strong sentencing against her husband, until the prosecutor pressed for “a lesser form of a felony.” That was because the Santa Clara District Attorney was concerned a harder conviction would put Gattani in danger of being deported back to India. A lesser felony charge means that Gattani could spend as little as two weeks in jail, and would be able to expunge his record after completing certain probationary measures.
Rastogi’s victim impact statement statement raises an interesting point about not only the rights of immigrants versus the rights of abuse survivors, but also how gender dynamics and race come into play. In February, Irvin Gonzalez left a domestic violence shelter to go to the courthouse and was arrested by immigration agents. It was her abuser who tipped them off. Her arrest made the national news, and highlighted other instances of women who dropped their domestic violence cases for fear of deportation. Rastgoi’s case illustrates the odds domestic abuse survivors are up against, especially when other legal matters are involved such as child custody or immigration status. It also differs in that in this case, the criminal justice system is actively working to avoid Gattani’s deportation.
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