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Landlord trial delayed

By Michael Coffino Daily Planet Correspondent
Wednesday October 11, 2000

The judge hearing the criminal case against a wealthy Berkeley landlord accused of sex and immigration offenses delayed until Oct. 24 a hearing to dismiss some of the charges.  

The hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday.  

Federal prosecutors said they plan to name additional defendants and the judge has previously said she wants those defendants named before she rules on the defense motion to dismiss some of the charges.  

Among other crimes, Lakireddy Bali Reddy, a Berkeley property owner and restaurateur, has been charged with importing three teenagers from a village in southern India to perform sexual services for him. His adult son, Vijay Kumar Lakireddy, has also been charged in the case.  

Ted Cassman, Reddy's lawyer, has asked Armstrong to throw out the sex charges because he says a reference to “immoral purposes” in the century-old law under which Reddy is charged is unconstitutionally vague. 

Currently free on $10 million bail, Reddy was arrested in January following the accidental death last year of one of the teen-agers, Chanti Jyotsna Devi Prattipati.  

The girl, whose exact age has not been established, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in one of Reddy's rental properties in Berkeley.  

A routine investigation by Berkeley police raised suspicions about her living circumstances. 

Cassman has argued that the 1907 law Reddy is charged under is unconstitutionally vague.  

He told the court last month that the law, which prohibits importation of minors for prostitution “or other immoral purposes,” is invalid because the phrase “immoral purposes” is vague and archaic.  

“The bottom line is that in our contemporary world (the law) fails to define a public offense beyond its specific reference to prostitution,” he wrote in papers filed in August. Under settled legal principles, a law is invalid if it is so vague that an average person would have to guess what it means. That is the case here, Cassman says. Cassman did not return a call placed to his office by the Daily Planet Tuesday seeking comment. 

Federal prosecutors in the case disagree with Cassman's interpretation of the statute.  

“No court has held that the phrase is unconstitutionally vague,” assistant U.S. Attorney John W. Kennedy told Armstrong in papers filed last month. Kennedy said the Supreme Court has held that the phrase “immoral purposes” is applicable to a variety of circumstances, including prostitution, concubinage, polygamy and rape. 

The government brief points out that Reddy has lived in the United States for over 30 years and presumably knew that sex with minors was illegal. 

Kennedy also argued that Reddy has effectively conceded he had sexual relations with the girls because defense attorney Cassman has indicated he will present evidence that the girls were over 18 at the time of Reddy's arrest, not minors.