Silicon Valley tech CEO admits beating software engineer wife, offered just 13 days in the clink
Despite evidence and previous offense, Abhishek Gattani unlikely to face serious charges
The CEO of a Silicon Valley startup captured on video beating his wife and threatening to kill her is, due to an offered plea deal, likely to spend less than 30 days behind bars to avoid being deported.
His wife is furious about the arrangement, claiming that she had been cheated by the system and the charge of "offensive touching" that will see Abhishek Gattani spend as little as 13 days in jail, with the rest of his six-month sentence carried out by doing weekend work, is a joke.
"His charge should be felony – battery with the intent to harm if not kill," she said in a victim statement read to the court in Silicon Valley's Santa Clara County Superior Court on Thursday. "Offensive touching? I call it terrorism. That’s how I felt – terrorized and controlled held hostage by the fear of pain, humiliation and assault on my being and my daughter's."
Abhishek Gattani, born in India, came to California back in 2005 as a software engineer. He became director of engineering at a Kosmix, a company later bought by Walmart. He claims to have created Walmart's search engine, Polaris, and is currently the CEO of Cuberon, a machine-learning engine that analyzes customer behavior.
While at Kosmix, Gattani later met and married Neha Rastogi, a product manager, who would later work for Apple, often working directly alongside Steve Jobs. She previously worked at Cisco and Adobe.
It was an arranged marriage with Rastogi later telling the Daily Beast – which has covered the case extensively – that they met only a few times before marrying in 2009. She was also born in India but had become an American citizen.
According to her victim-impact statement, the physical abuse began almost immediately. "He hit me, multiple times during each incident on my face, arms, head, belly, pulled my hair and abused me and called me a bitch, whore, slut, bastard and much more in my language," she told the court.
"Towards the last four years of our marriage he brainwashed me into admitting that I was a complete disgrace to him and the family we built and that if he was in my place, he would commit suicide out of shame, in other words telling me to commit suicide."
In November 2013, when Gattani was spotted dragging and punching Rastogi outside their home in Sunnyvale in the heart of Silicon Valley, a postal worker called the police. Gattani was charged with felony assault but it was reduced to a misdemeanor after Rastogi was told it could result in her husband – and the father of her three-month-old baby – being deported back to India, and urged for a reduction in the seriousness of the crime.
With dark irony, that event formed part of a hectoring, threatening and violent interaction that the husband and wife had in 2016 which Rastogi decided to record as evidence of ongoing domestic abuse.
The recording, which was introduced into court, was done surreptiously by Rastogi on her iPhone and over the course of six minutes, Gattani is heard, surreally, bullying her over the correct definition of a software bug before repeatedly hitting her as she tries to walk through why no content is showing up on specific webpages.
"Here's is a link that seems to be landing to a page, which takes you to this content," Gattani is heard. He starts: "Would you…" before hitting her, "… keep that link, or would you remove it? Tell me…" He hits her a second time and repeats the question: "Keep that link or remove it?" Crying, she says "remove it."
The conversation continues in a similar vein with discussion about fixing bugs in between strikes.
It is one of a number of disturbing recordings that Rastogi provided to the court last year to defend her position that her life was under threat. The Daily Beast has posted three of them online.
In another recording, Gattani is heard telling Rastogi that he is going to spend all day pressuring her to make sure she resigns from her job "even if it takes the entire day, whether it's fighting, pushing you around snatching your phone. Or whatever."
On the last recording, he tells her, seemingly quite calmly, that he wants to see her murdered and could imagine how someone could stab someone 45 times. On another tape, her three-year-old daughter is asked pleading for Gattani to stop hitting her mother.
Rastogi took the threats seriously enough to create a will and obtain life insurance so that her daughter would be provided for if she was killed.
Finally, she plucked up the courage to go to a lawyer who advised her to go to the police. Soon after Gattani was arrested at work.
During the course of the initial hearings – which Rastogi was encouraged not to attend and so did not – the seemingly clear evidence of domestic abuse was downplayed.
The main charge against Gattani was reduced from felony assault to felony accessory – an accessory to a crime that only he could have carried out – to which he pleaded "no contest." He also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor of "offensive touching."
The plea deal was reached between assistant district attorney Steve Fein and Gattani's lawyer. Fein told the Daily Beast that Rastogi did not object to the deal with he outlined it to her – something she fiercely denies, especially since the felony charge may be removed from his record after three years of probation. Neither Gattani nor his lawyer, defense attorney Mike Paez, will speak about the case.
Rastogi is now seeking a divorce from Gattani and read her victim-impact statement to the court in an effort to persuade the judge to impose a stronger sentence (since he had pleaded "no contest", it is up to the judge to decide on the appropriate punishment).
The judge was not in court that day, but her stand-in, Rodney Stafford, was shocked by its contents and decided to put off the sentencing until Judge Allison Danner returned from holiday and promised to provide her with a copy of the statement by way of explanation.
In the most striking part of her statement, Rastogi bemoans her situation: "I feel fooled not just by a convicted criminal, aggressor, wife beater, batterer, that I unfortunately married - the worst mistake of my life - but by this court as well. With all due respect to the system... I stand fooled, disgraced and ridiculed as a victim."
The sentencing of Abhishek Gattani, case B1687324, is now scheduled for May 18. ®