On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Indictment No. 01-08-00936.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Skillman and Yannotti.
A jury found defendant guilty of attempted murder, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1a(3) and N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1); second-degree aggravated assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(1); third-degree aggravated assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(7); criminal restraint, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2b; criminal restraint, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2a; terroristic threats, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3b; and harassment, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4. The trial court sentenced defendant to a fifteen-year term of imprisonment, with seven-and-a-half years of parole ineligibility, for attempted murder; a concurrent seven-year term, with three-and-a-half years of parole ineligibility, for second-degree aggravated assault; concurrent four-year terms, with two years of parole ineligibility, for third-degree aggravated assault, terroristic threats and the two counts of criminal restraint; and a thirty-day term for harassment.
Defendant's convictions were based on a series of assaults he inflicted upon his wife, Sireesha, between April 13, 2001 and June 4, 2001, which culminated in her nine-day hospitalization with multiple fractures of vertebrae, third-degree burns, numerous bite marks and other serious injuries.
Defendant and Sireesha were married in an arranged marriage in India on February 9, 2001. Defendant, who worked in New Jersey at the time of marriage, returned here shortly thereafter. Sireesha joined him on March 29, 2001, and they resided together in an apartment in Parsippany.
Defendant began verbally abusing Sireesha as soon as she arrived in New Jersey, and this verbal abuse developed into a pattern of physical violence starting in mid-April. Defendant set up a master-servant relationship with Sireesha by requiring her to sleep on the floor. If she did not comply, he would beat her or kick her. Defendant also forbid Sireesha from leaving their apartment except on limited occasions when he brought her with him, and he prohibited Sireesha from calling her parents in India.
When Sireesha violated any of defendant's rules, he punched her in the face, causing bleeding. In addition, he burned her by heating a large, metal cooking spoon on the stove and holding it against her ankle while he prevented her from moving. On another occasion, he burned her inner thigh the same way. In addition to burning, hitting and kicking Sireesha, defendant also bit Sireesha all over her body. Sireesha estimated that defendant inflicted a total of fifty or sixty bites upon her.
During the last week of May 2001, defendant instructed Sireesha not to eat, wear any clothes or shower for a week. Sireesha complied with this instruction for almost the entire week, but then, on June 2, 2001, she was so hungry that she tried to eat when defendant left the apartment. Defendant unexpectedly came home while Sireesha was preparing food. He grabbed Sireesha by the hair and pulled her into the bedroom. Once in the bedroom, defendant told Sireesha to lie down on her stomach, with her hands at her side. He then repeatedly jumped on her back. Defendant weighed approximately 175 lbs and did not remove his shoes while he administered this beating. Sireesha was nude at the time.
After jumping on Sireesha's back enough times to make her think she was going die, defendant asked her to sit up. When Sireesha was unable to get up, he pulled her by the hair into a sitting position and bit her chin until is started "severely bleeding." At the time of trial, four years later, Sireesha still had a visible mark on her chin from this biting incident.
On June 3, 2001, defendant and his brother called their mother in India and spoke to her, on a speaker phone, in Sireesha's presence. After hanging up the phone, defendant immediately started kicking Sireesha on the back. He told her: "I got the green signal and I will kill you, I will marry again."
Sireesha was in so much pain that she asked him: "can you kick on my - can you do that on my stomach." Defendant obliged and kicked her on the stomach, but then told her to turn back over and explained: "[I]f I do that one more time on your stomach you will die, I will become a murderer." He resumed kicking her in the back. ...