The City Council’s approval of a resolution Tuesday to support the boycott of Pasand Madras Cuisine has raised questions about the owners’ constitutional rights to the presumption of innocence.
The council voted to support Women Against Sexual Slavery’s boycott of the Shattuck Avenue restaurant owned by Berkeley landlord Lakireddy Bali Reddy and his family. WASS is boycotting the restaurant because of Reddy’s alleged involvement with illegally bringing aliens, including minor teens, into the country for cheap labor and sex. The resolution passed by a 7-2 vote with Councilmembers Polly Armstrong and Miriam Hawley voting in opposition.
Newly seated on the council, Hawley said the approval of the resolution was premature. “I thought it was improper,” she said Thursday. “It’s one thing for an individual to take part in a boycott but it’s quite another for the City Council to take an official position when no one’s been found guilty.”
Councilmember Kriss Worthington who made the recommendation along with Councilmember Linda Maio and Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek, argued that the owner has basically admitted that he was involved.
“It seems pretty clear from the information that’s been presented that there’s a very serious problem,” he said. “We think that everybody, women and men, should be doing what they can to end sexual slavery in all its manifestations.”
Five members of Reddy’s family have been in plea negotiations with Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kennedy – Reddy, his sons Vijay Kumar Lakireddy, 32, Prasad Lakireddy, 42; his brother Jayaprakash Lakireddy, 47; and Jayprakash Lakireddy’s wife, Annapurna Lakireddy, 46.
The five had been in negotiations with Kennedy to enter guilty pleas, but Prasad Lakireddy announced in court Dec. 11 that he would withdraw from negotiations and not plead guilty to any charges.
Prasad Lakireddy’s attorney, Paul Wolf, denounced the resolution saying the council ignored his client’s rights and that the boycott may be unfairly hurting innocent family members and their employees. He argued the City Council must not be aware of the fact that only two of the restaurant’s owners have been charged with sex-related crimes.
Among other allegations, Reddy is charged with bringing young women into the country illegally for his sexual gratification and his younger son, Vijay Lakireddy is charged with helping him to accomplish this.
The three other family members are alleged to have brought aliens into the country illegally, but are charged with no sex-related crimes, Wolf said.
“Should we punish the rest of the family because they’re related by blood?” Wolf asked. “Where in the American tradition do we do that?”
WASS member Diana Russell, who has been picketing in front of Pasand Restaurant since January, said she was “thrilled” with the council’s resolution, but thought it did not go far enough. She said Reddy should be held responsible for the death of one of the women he is charged with bringing to the United States illegally for sex. “Mr. Reddy should be prosecuted for negligent homicide or homicide depending on whether (Chanti Jyotsna Devi) Prattipati was alive when he arrived or not,” she said.
Russell was referring to the Nov. 24, 1999 incident in which Chanti Jyotsna Devi Prattipati, 17, died from carbon monoxide poisoning in one of Reddy’s apartments at 2020 Bancroft Way. Police have ruled Prattipati’s death accidental.
It is alleged that Reddy was called to the apartment at the time but failed to call for an ambulance. A passerby told police she saw someone fitting Reddy’s description attempting to put Prattipati’s body into a waiting van identified as belonging to Reddy Realty.
Prasad Lakireddy, part owner and manager of Pasand, said he was surprised by the council’s approval of the resolution.
“So much of what people have been saying is not true,” he said. “It is very sad and I have to look at it philosophically. I have no ill-feelings for anyone.”