Community shocked over Sinha murder case judgment

Divyendu Sinha
Divyendu Sinha

OLD BRIDGE, NY: It was not surprising that members of the Indian community across Tri state area reacted the way they did on the sentencing of the culprits in Divyendu Sinha Murder case. Here are the observations:

• A miscarriage of justice
• Shameful sentencing. Take a life, get life. They’d be treated like rock stars in prison. Not long after we forget this tragedy their names will be in the news again…wait for it.

• Is this is justice for a bunch of murdering savages seven months in jail? Shows where our country is and more to come. Human life means nothing, no wonder they kill each other so frequently.

• Simple assault, a fourth-degree crime, carries a presumption of non-incarceration.

• No faith in such biased jury system
These were some of the reactions from the people, not just Indians but everyone present in the court room when the sentencing was being read out in the Divyendu Sinha murder case. The entire Indian community was flabbergasted after the sentencing and cried for justice. “We have no more faith in this kind of judicial system where these thugs are shown leniency for a grave charge like murder”.

For Cash Johnson and Christian Tinli, charged with murder, aggravated assault and other counts in the beating death of a 49-year-old computer scientist Divyendu Sinha of Old Bridge, the pronouncements meant almost certain freedom. But for Alka Sinha, the wife of the deceased, they meant a sentence of her own. She felt as if she had lost Divyendu once again. That last glimmer of hope of justice for her late husband was also lost.

It was a scene of contrasts in a New Brunswick courtroom as jurors cleared Johnson and Tinli, both 20, of every felony count against them, finding the pair guilty only of simple assault in a wolf pack-style attack on Divyendu Sinha three years ago.

Two other young men, Julian Daley, 19, and Christopher Conway, 20, previously pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the case. A third, Steven Contreras, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault after he was acquitted of more serious charges. All three have yet to be sentenced.

William Fetky, who argued at trial that Johnson never struck Divyendu during the encounter, said jurors made “the right decision.” While Tinli and his family declined to comment. His lawyer, Joseph Mazraani, called the verdict “fair and just.”

The five, former Old Bridge High School students, had been drinking earlier in the night and “wanted to (expletive) someone up,” the prosecutor told jurors. On Fela Drive in Old Bridge, the group happened to attack the Sinha family who were out for a walk. Four of the five converged on Divyendu, a former professor at Stevens Institute of Technology. Alka Sinha identified Tinli as the one who powerfully punched her husband on the right side of his face, sending him sprawling. Divyendu died three days later of a massive hemorrhage.

The jury, after five days of deliberations, found Tinli guilty of simple assault for taking part in the attack but did not link him to the fatal blow. Johnson was found guilty of the same charge for striking one of Sinha’s sons, who tried to intervene on his father’s behalf.

“I was truly shocked,” Gaurang Vaishnav, a family friend said. “We had hoped there would be some justice, that they would get convicted, especially Tinli. These guys have been set free, maybe to hurt somebody else.”

Well known community leader Peter Kothari, “justice has not been served. A very productive person in society has lost his life. A child has lost their father and a wife her husband,” Kothari said. “The Indian-American community is very upset. These thugs will be roaming the streets of New Jersey very soon and will target others in the days to come”.

Contreras and Conway testified that they had been drinking earlier in the evening and after a road rage confrontation fizzled, they drove around looking for a fight. Shamefully and without remorse Tinli, 21, turned to the Sinha family and said to them, “I deeply send my deepest apologies. I’ve been praying for your whole family since June 25, 2010 and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Everything that happened changed my life and affected my family as well. I’m sorry for being a part of this.”

Even though Judge Bradley Ferencz, who said Johnson’s actions the night of June 25, 2010 were “despicable and heinous” the judge believed that Christopher Conway, 20, who pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in July and faced up to eight years in prison, was given seven years by the judge who believed “he won’t ever again get into an automobile and set out to harm anybody.”

The judge postponed sentencing for Daley, who has been held in the county jail for more than a year after his bail was revoked when he was charged with burglarizing his neighbor’s house.

The judge set November 12 as the new sentencing date at which time Daley faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to aggravated manslaughter and burglary.

What is even more interesting and proof enough that the sentencing was biased was that even though Judge Ferencz noted that like Johnson, Tinli told the probation officer who wrote his pre-sentence report that he smoked marijuana about twice a month and drinks alcohol, the sentencing was so mild that it would not act as a deterrent.

The judge also said that a forgery charge pending against Tinli from an incident that occurred after the Sinha beating and while he was free on bail cannot be used against him in the sentencing because there has been no verdict on the charge.

As if taking a soft stand in the sentencing judge Ferencz said, “‘You had to know they were kids and a mom and a dad and not teenagers but you slapped around a young man. You knew the kid was trying to help out his dad.” The judge said he has to “send out a message that this kind of conduct cannot be tolerated.”

Sudhir Vyas

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