Attorney's Actions in Reddy Case Excused





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OAKLAND - Berkeley City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque should not be subject to disciplinary action for her comments about the Reddy case, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

The city attorney had testified at an earlier hearing before U.S. Magistrate Wayne Brazil that Lakireddy Bali Reddy, the wealthy Berkeley landlord, had not called 911 after the Nov. 24 death of Chanti Prattipati. Based on police reports, Albuquerque had also testified that Reddy and his son, Vijay Kumar Lakireddy, had been seen stowing Prattipati's body in a Reddy Realty van.

Albuquerque's testimony provoked the defense to insert a request for disciplinary actions into a prosecution motion. U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong called the complicated legal mechanisms of the request "a little extraordinary," but ruled that Albuquerque's testimony does not warrant such action.

"(Albuquerque's comments) were not reckless," Armstrong said. "At the most they were negligent, and even that is a bit strong."

The testimony was valid because it was based on police reports, which is a common practice, Armstrong said.

"It was based on information from the lead investigator, which is not unusual," she said. "I don't think there's anything reckless in that she received information from her chief investigator."

After the hearing, Albuquerque said she had expected to be vindicated.

"I'm not surprised," she said. "I thought it was a tactical ploy to detract from the case."

Investigations have revealed that there was in fact a 911 call made after Prattipati's death. Defendants have provided voice exemplars in order to determine who made that call.

But outside Oakland's Federal Court building, defense attorney Penny Cooper said that while Albuquerque's comments had not been punishable, they were still wrong.

"A call was made - that's what the truth is," she said. "You'll have to ask the people who made it. It's been used to smear those people (who are being charged)."

Albuquerque has played a high-profile role in the case since Reddy's arrest was announced Jan. 19. She wrote a letter to Brazil suggesting Reddy was a flight risk. Brazil later set bail at $10 million.

After the hearing yesterday, a spokesperson for the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action said the community was grateful to Albuquerque for the important role she has played in the investigation.

"Manuela Albuquerque has played a critical role in this in terms of bringing cultural competency to this case," said Shaily Matani. "She has played an important role for advocacy. We support the dismissal (of the request)."

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