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March 6, 2000
'Sita' may have been pregnant
R S Shankar
The lawyers for Silicon Valley businessmen Lakireddy Bali Reddy and his son Vijay Kumar were mounting a spirited attack last week, alleging that government lawyers had lied when they opposed their bail applications, when they were hit by a new revelation.
According to The San Francisco Examiner, which obtained a copy of the coroner's report, the teenaged girl whose carbon monoxide poisoning death led to federal charges being filed against the Reddys was pregnant at the time of her death.
The government has alleged that Reddy, the biggest landlord in the college town of Berkeley, had smuggled her from India to have sex and do cheap labor.
A small mass, 8 centimeters in diameter and thought to be a fetus, was found in the girl's uterus, according to a copy of the Alameda County coroner's report obtained by the Examiner on Friday.
The girl, whose passport named as Sita Vemireddy, 17, and her younger sister, 15, were found unconscious in their small apartment in the last week of November. While 'Sita' was pronounced dead at the Alta Bates Medical Center, her sister was treated and released the following day.
The Examiner said the case was reviewed by doctors at the Stanford University Medical Center, who last month concurred with the Alameda County investigators' conclusion that she was pregnant.
The police had found Viagra in the 62-year-old Reddy's office, news reports had said. But this weekend, his lawyer, without any elaboration, said: 'If it is true that the deceased young woman is pregnant, then that evidence will show that she had sexual relations with someone other than our client.'
In statements given to police by Sita's sister and her third roommate, who are now in protective custody of the immigration authorities, Reddy had known all three girls for a few years in his village in Andhra Pradesh.
The girls worked in a house Reddy owned, and that is when the defendant started having sexual relations with them, according to court records.
A rumor that Sita might have been pregnant was circulating even in India in recent weeks, said the Examiner, which sent two reporters to India from San Francisco to cover the story.
Many of the women and men, who had held a candlelight vigil for the girl at one of the two Indian restaurants Reddy owned, said they were shocked by the attorney's assertion. One of the two restaurants is in the heart of Silicon Valley where Reddy and his family has several businesses.
"Let us argue for argument's sake that the child was not Reddys," said one demonstrator. "That does not mean he did not have sex with her. This does not mean he did not play around with her life. And if she had sex with another person, the question is who that man is, and if the girl was used for prostitution."
Reddy is out on a $ 10 million bail, and his son on one of $ 500,000.
Their lawyers last week said the city's lawyer, Manuela Albuquerque, had not told the court the truth when she had asserted that Reddy had tried to hush up the carbon monoxide accident and had not called the police or the ambulance.
The officials have asked for the voice and handwriting samples of the father and son.
Vijay Kumar faces federal charges that he conspired to bring Indians into the United States illegally through his software company by using H1-B visas, for skilled workers. The two girls came to America documented as the daughters of a H1-B visa holder, Venkateswara Vemireddy, who was unskilled in real life and worked as a restaurant hand for Reddy.
The woman who pretended to be his wife is actually his sister, the authorities say. They also say that since the man owed money to the senior Reddy; he agreed to bring the girls into America to have his loan written off.
When they four landed in San Francisco in August, Reddy put up the girls in a one-bedroom apartment near his downtown Berkeley real estate office and the Vemireddys in a studio apartment a couple of blocks away, court papers say. When the girl died, the cover story the Reddys offered was that the girls could not live with their parents because of the paucity of space.
While Vijay Kumar and his father have been forbidden to do business while the case is going on, Reddy's other son, Prasad Lakireddy, continues to run the restaurants, which are still packed. In fact, business has increased a little after the scandal broke out, insiders say.
"Tastebuds can be forgiving, very forgiving," said a young patron recently.
"We have been coming here much before anything of this came to light. We don't love Reddy, we love his moong dosa."
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