Attorney General Jeff Sessions joined the chorus of criticism Friday over a plea deal allowing Silicon Valley start-up CEO Abhishek Gattani to stay in the United States after his second conviction for attacking his wife.
Gattani was secretly recorded by his wife, former Apple engineer Neha Rastogi, as he hit her repeatedly about the head in a 2016 argument. He already had a 2013 conviction for assaulting his wife, which was only reduced to a misdemeanor when Rastogi urged prosecutors to do so. According to a report in The Daily Beast, witnesses in that case described that Gattani punched his wife with a closed fist repeatedly as he dragged her around their suburban Sunnyvale, California, neighborhood.
In the 2016 investigation, Rastogi cooperated fully, providing authorities with the recording and issuing a four-page victim impact statement asking for strict treatment of her abusive husband.
The plea deal that Gattani’s lawyers and Santa Clara County Assistant District Attorney Steve Fein reached, however, would result in less than 30 days of actual time in jail. More importantly for Gattani’s future, the felony to which he will plead guilty, accessory after the fact, is not considered a “violent felony,” and he, therefore, will not be deported to India at the completion of his short jail stay.
This leniency appears to be a matter of deliberate policy in the so-called “sanctuary state” of California. Fein freely admitted to The Daily Beast that the deal was tailored to avoid triggering the federal automatic deportation provisions for violent felons. He described that as “fair.” He also suggested the head of his office, District Attorney Jeff Rosen, tries to prevent deportations of felons in his district.
Left-leaning commentary from The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post has been very critical of the plea deal on the grounds of its leniency but only touched on the immigration implications.
Attorney General Sessions, in his address in San Diego Friday, jumped into the fray, expressing his outrage over the result as part of his continued push against these so-called sanctuary jurisdictions:
Just the other day, it was reported that a local prosecutor in California went so far as to intentionally lower violent and heinous domestic abuse charges against a repeat offender so that the abuser wouldn’t be deported. Think about the message that sends: if you are an alien and you commit domestic violence, prosecutors will charge you with a lesser crime so you can stay in the country. Enough is enough.
The address came after Sessions made good on his threat to cut Justice Department grant money from California and other jurisdictions that actively frustrate the enforcement of immigration laws. Friday morning, his Justice Department issued letters to nine such jurisdictions, demanding proof of compliance with federal immigration reporting laws before grant money is dispensed.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has been one of the most proactive local agencies in resisting the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement efforts. The office filed suit last week, along with nearby San Francisco County, to block Trump’s executive orders aimed at cutting off funding to sanctuary jurisdictions.