US Man Sentenced to 12 Years in Jail over Indian's Death - The New Indian Express

US Man Sentenced to 12 Years in Jail over Indian's Death

Published: 05th April 2014 10:14 PM

Last Updated: 05th April 2014 10:16 PM

A 20-year-old man in the US has been sentenced to over 12 years in prison for his role in the beating to death of an Indian-origin computer scientist in 2010.

Steven Contreras was sentenced by state Superior Court Judge Bradley Ferencz in New Brunswick for his role in the death of Divyendu Sinha, 49.

Contreras was among a group of teenagers who had been charged in connection with the death of Sinha, who was attacked as he and his wife Alka and two sons were out for a late night walk on June 25, 2010, near their home.

The group punched Sinha in the head and he died three days later at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. His two sons had minor injuries and his wife was not hurt.

Ferencz, while sentencing Contreras, was quoted as saying by 'My Central Jersey' website that "This is a tragedy, a tragedy for the Sinha family and the families involved in this. It is also criminal."

"You were the only sober one that night. You were in control. You made the decisions," the judge said.

Contreras, who had been driving the car in which the teens were travelling, apologised to the Sinha family, the court, the prosecution and his family.

"On June 25, 2010, I created the greatest mistake I've ever committed in my life," Contreras was quoted as saying.

"There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about it," he said.

After the sentencing, Middlesex County First Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet said, "On June 25, 2010, Steven Contreras, along with his co-defendants, perpetuated a heinous crime against the Sinha family and the Old Bridge community."

Thereafter, he was given an opportunity to assist the prosecution, to bring justice to the Sinha family and favourably resolve his criminal charges. Contreras squandered that opportunity, Kuberiet said.

"The state is extremely pleased with the judge's decision today, and the message should go forth when you attempt to manipulate the system or perpetrate a fraud on the court your conduct will be met with the severest of penalties," he said.

In May 2012, a Superior Court jury had acquitted Contreras of murder and aggravated manslaughter but did not reach a decision on the reckless manslaughter charge.

Jurors convicted him of several assault charges. In November that year, Contreras accepted a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault in exchange for testimony at the other defendants' trials.

Under the agreement, he would be sentenced to up to four years in prison.

Seeking a minimum sentence for Contreras, his attorney Carlos Diaz-Cobo said he had received various letters from supporters who had called him "a caring loving son, a caring loving brother, a respectful young man, hard-working."

He said it shows his client is a "hard-working young man and a person of good character" and "is unlikely to commit another offense."

Kuberiet, however, said that Contreras had lied in his statements in court.

The prosecutor said Contreras never came forward to report the event and if not for Contreras, "this case would not have occurred" seeking the most severe punishment possible for him.

The others charged in the case already have been sentenced.

In November, as part of a plea agreement with the state, Julian Daley was sentenced to the maximum of 15 years in prison on charges of aggravated manslaughter and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault for his role in the case.

Christopher Conway pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and is serving a seven-year sentence.

Cash Johnson and Christian Tinli went on trial last year and were found guilty of one charge, simple assault on Sinha's son.

They were sentenced to six months each.

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