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Lakireddy Bali Reddy, the Berkeley landlord sent to prison last year for importing Indian girls into sexual slavery and servitude, is asking a federal judge to overturn his plea deal. Reddy wants U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken to lift his 97-month sentence based on several victims’ assertions that an interpreter, Uma Rao, asked them to lie or embellish their stories. Two have admitted that they actually did so. The victims’ statements were crucial in U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong’s decision to reject one plea deal, resulting in a nearly two-year addition to Reddy’s sentence. “Most of the victims conceded that Rao had urged them to exaggerate their accounts of emotional and psychological injury, and several of them identified a host of related lies and misstatements which similarly informed the [pre-sentence report] provided to the court,” wrote Reddy’s attorney, Theodore Cassman of Arguedas, Cassman & Headley, in a motion filed in December. Reddy has also retained Dennis Riordan of Riordan & Rosenthal for the motion. Riordan was successful in getting a second-degree murder charge against Marjorie Knoller thrown out in the infamous dog-mauling case. The government has until Feb. 6 to reply. Armstrong cited the degree of the victims’ suffering and an alleged attempt at obstruction of justice regarding a phone call Reddy made to several victims in rejecting the initial deal. Four victims have now admitted Rao urged them to say something other than the truth. Two say they actually did so. Those statements were relied on in the pre-sentence reports. According to court documents, the victims alerted government prosecutors to the problem the day after Reddy was sentenced. The move pushed back the sentencing of co-defendants in the case. Armstrong, for reasons that have not been explained, later recused herself from the case. The case was transferred to Wilken. The motion is heavily redacted, with statements apparently attributed to the anonymous victims having been removed. Cassman hopes to development a stronger argument if Wilken decides to explore the matter further. “We anticipate that a more focused investigation will establish that Judge Armstrong was more egregiously misled by false information in the PSR than is currently known,” Cassman’s brief reads. Government prosecutors did not return a phone call seeking comment. A lawyer appointed to represent Uma Rao after the allegations were leveled said his client doesn’t believe she crossed the line. “She was their den mother,” Oakland solo Daniel Horowitz said. “She had no idea whether she was doing anything wrong.” Horowitz said the government sought Rao out as an interpreter, and that she performed a variety of duties beyond interpreting, including cooking and taking the victims on shopping excursions. Many of the victims are, or were at the time of the alleged crime, underage. Reddy’s importation of girls from India to work in his numerous apartment buildings and Berkeley Indian restaurant was revealed following an investigation into the carbon monoxide poisoning death of a teen-ager who lived in one of his buildings.

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