Driver of Get-Away Car in New Jersey Hindu Indian American Professor Attack Gets 12 Years prison sentence


Steven Contreras, who drove the get-away car on the night that five New Jersey men fatally attacked an Indian American professor outside his home, was sentenced last week to more than 12 years in prison.

United States
The last of five attackers who beat a New Jersey Indian American professor to death outside his home, received a 12-year prison sentence April 3 for driving the get-away car and attacking the educator’s teenage sons.

In the final chapter of a story that began four years ago — when five young men fatally attacked City University of New York’s Prof. Divyendu Sinha outside his Old Bridge, New Jersey, home while he was taking an evening stroll with his family – Steven Contreras received multiple sentences for conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, driving the get-away car, attacking Sinha’s teenage sons who stepped in to help their father, and lying to prosecutors. Contreras received 17 and a half years total, but will serve some of his sentences concurrently, adding up to 12 years of actual prison time. He will have to serve 85 percent of his sentence before he can apply for parole.

“It was better than we had hoped for,” Gaurang Vaishnav, executive vice president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, told India-West. “We wanted 30 years for each of them, but we had lowered our expectations,” said Vaishnav, explaining that if Middlesex County prosecutors had asked for higher sentences, an appellate court could have found them exceedingly harsh and different outcomes of lower sentences might have arisen.

In 2012, Contreras had pleaded guilty to driving the get-away car and received a four-year sentence in exchange for offering testimony against the main attackers, Cash Johnson and Christian Tinli. But on the stand, Contreras allegedly lied about crucial facts on the night of the attack, reportedly to protect his friends.

Based on Contreras’ testimony, Johnson and Tinli were acquitted in the murder of Sinha, and instead received a six-month sentence for attacking his sons. Julian Daley, also involved in the brutal beating, pleaded guilty last year and received a 15-year prison sentence.

Contending that Contreras had lied on the stand to protect his friends – violating the terms of his plea bargain – Middlesex County, New Jersey prosecutors re-opened the case against Contreras.

Before the sentence was read out in court, Carlos Diaz Cabo, who is now representing Contreras, said his client was about to receive more time than the actual perpetrators of the attack. No evidence suggests that Contreras actually participated in the beating.

Cabo said Contreras was a man of “good character” and presented the court with letters of support from family and friends. “Even people of good character get caught up in bad things,” said Cabo, describing Sinha’s death as a “tragedy.”

Cabo said Contreras did not understand the terms of his plea agreement.

Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet waved away Cabo’s statements, saying: “This was no tragedy. It was an assault, an ambush on the Sinha family and on the Old Bridge community in general.”

“There is no mitigating factor here. This was a conspiracy,” stated Kuberiet. “All of them were equally responsible for the death of Dr. Sinha.”

“This is like killing your parents and then running away crying ‘orphan,’” Kuberiet metaphorically stated.

Contreras spoke before the sentence was handed down, saying: “On June 25, 2010, I committed the gravest mistake of my life. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it.”

“My heart goes out to the family. I apologize to the court and prosecutor. I am sorry for causing pain to my family and friends.”

Alka Sinha, Divyendu Sinha’s widow, declined to speak at Contreras’ sentencing. But in an interview last November, Alka Sinha told India-West: “It was an open-and-shut case. All the evidence was there that they killed my husband.”

“My husband had a lot to offer society. No one had the right to take his life,” she stated. There is no punishment that can say ‘I feel justice.’ The damage is so deep.”

Source: India West