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Many applaud judge’s ruling

By Daniela Mohor Daily Planet staff
Wednesday June 20, 2001

OAKLAND – Members of the organizations involved in the campaign for a just punishment for Berkeley landlord Lakireddy Bali Reddy reacted positively to U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong’s decision Tuesday to sentence the Berkeley landlord to eight years in prison. 

“The sentence today is a powerful moment for the women and the families victimized by Mr. Reddy, who now stands exposed, humiliated and shamed,” said Chic Dabby of Narika, a Berkeley-based South Asian women’s organization. 

Reddy pleaded guilty last March to illegally bringing girls form India for sex and  

cheap labor. In exchange, prosecutors recommended a maximum sentence of six and one-half years in prison - a punishment Narika and other advocacy groups considered too lenient. In the past few weeks, they sent Armstrong dozens of letters urging her to reject the plea bargain and impose a harsher sentence on Reddy. To many of them, Tuesday’s decision was therefore a victory. 

“We are extremely happy,” said Nithya Ramanathan, a member of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA) after the hearing. “We feel that the judge really recognized the severity of the case. By inflicting a (more severe) sentence she demonstrated that this kind of behavior is not going to be accepted.” 

Reddy’s victims also expressed satisfaction with the sentence. At the end of the hearing, attorney Jayashri Srikantiah from the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project read a statement on behalf of two victims the foundation represents in a possible civil lawsuit against Reddy. 

“We are deeply gratified by today’s event. Nothing can compensate us for what (Reddy) did but we are satisfied that he has finally been brought to justice and that he’s going to prison,” according to the statement. 

Only one organization, Women Against Sexual Slavery, expressed discontent towards the judge’s decision. “This is absolutely not justice,” said Diana E.H. Russell, leader of the organization. “He’s not even being prosecuted for the things he needs to be prosecuted for.” Russell was against the settlement because it means Reddy will not have to face charges for crimes such as rape or labor violations. 

During the day, other members of Women Against Sexual Slavery, representatives of ASATA, a few Berkeley residents as well as City Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Linda Maio quietly demonstrated at the entrance of the courthouse. They distributed documentation about the case and held colorful signs. Some of them had the form of a woman’s profile and read “Reddy = sex Slaver” or “The money talks and Reddy walks.”