By Catherine McKnight
The jury trial of People v. Kumar continued on Wednesday, May 15, in Judge Mock’s courtroom. Rakesh Kumar is being charged with four counts including corporal injury, assault by force, and intimidating a witness and victim.
The lead detective in the case took the witness stand. She said Ms. Grom had told her that Mr. Kumar was willing to give her $50,000. Ms. Grom did not report any injuries or abuse until about two months after it happened – she said that this is not uncommon with domestic abuse, due to various reasons. A question was raised about whether or not the injuries seemed consistent with “being punched repeatedly in the face.” She said no, because there were no photos taken of the face.
That was the end of the prosecution’s witnesses. Defense Attorney Chris Parkhurst called John Iacovelli to the stand. He is Rakesh’s tenant and he lives in his house. Mr. Iacovelli is only in Davis about 3-4 days out of the week, as a professor in the theater department at UC Davis. The other half of the week he is in L.A. on business.
He said he met Mr. Kumar on craigslist and his first impression was that he was a really nice person. He has met Angela Grom, Mr. Kumar’s ex-fiancée, and described her as a nice young woman. He said that Kumar moved in about two years ago and was able to observe Grom and Kumar socially every now and then.
Mr. Iacovelli never saw Ms. Grom with bruises on her and never heard or saw any verbal or physical arguments between the two. He did mention that when they got engaged, it was Angela who had told him and not Mr. Kumar. He also said that she was not living there but stayed there from time to time. On Monday, Angela had testified that she did live there with Mr. Kumar.
The next witness the defense called was Lori Schorran. She said she knows Mr. Kumar through her husband and has known him for about seven years. She has known Ms. Grom for about one year. She recalled a time that Ms. Grom arrived at her house unannounced with a finger injury. She was told that there was a confrontation between Kumar and Grom and that her finger got injured in the process. The confrontation had to do with Kumar’s shirt – Ms. Grom told her she was grabbing it and he was trying to get it back, and that is what caused the injury.
She also recalled a time a few months before that incident, when Kumar got pepper sprayed and also showed up at their house for assistance.
The next witness was Adam Criswell, Lori’s husband. He met Rakesh seven years ago in graduate school at North Carolina University. He and Kumar have remained good friends since. They both came to California to work in Woodland as plant breeders. He said he met Ms. Grom about two years ago. He claimed he never witnessed physical aggression. He said one year ago, Kuamr went to his house crying because he had been pepper sprayed. He said his face was very red.
He said he tried to tell Mr. Kumar to get out of the relationship. He also suggested that he should talk to a lawyer so he went with Kumar to an attorney in Davis.
Mr. Criswell also said that Kumar regularly sends money to India to support his family.
Rakesh Kumar, the defendant, took the witness stand next. He got his PhD at North Carolina University and grew up in India. His job requires him to travel often and, when he is not traveling, he lives at the Cottages in Davis.
He said he and Angela met on eHarmony in November of 2010. He physically met her in December of that year in Sacramento. They were already engaged when the alleged first physical altercation took place. He claimed that she hit him with shoes and his reaction was to call her mother to say that what she had done was not appropriate. He said Angela apologized.
The next incident was when Mr. Kumar got pepper sprayed. He said he was about to go to sleep but they had gotten into another argument. This one was about his ex-girlfriend and that she had a problem that he dated somebody who was divorced and had children. The altercation gave Kumar a scar on his chest and shoulder area, which he still has.
Another time, Kumar said that Grom hit him with a wine class and cut his fingers – the scars are still there. He said he did not consider calling the police.
On June 30, he said she went to meet with her mother in Sacramento and she came back to Davis unexpectedly. He said she was upset and wanted to get drinks during the daytime. He eventually told her that day that he did not want to be in their relationship anymore because it was not healthy. Ms. Grom stayed there and did not leave until the next morning when she went to Sacramento. He said to clarify he had sent her an email to explain further what he wanted and how he wanted out of the relationship.
He recalled one time when she said “If you lay a finger on me, I will get you deported and will see your family starve.” Mr. Kumar said that he called her parents and that they agreed on the phone that it was the best for everyone that they end their relationship.
Angela had told her dad that she was financially secure once, and he told her that money is not everything. Another time, when Rakesh went to the bank and was walking back, he ran into Angela. She took his wallet and would not give it back. Her testimony stated that Kumar punched her in public when they were going back to the car.
Another day was recalled. On July 2, a Monday morning, Ms. Grom allegedly told Kumar that he could not leave for work yet – it was 5 a.m. She said he could not leave until he fixed the relationship. She told him that the “relationship should be more important than work.”
Mr. Kumar said that she would show up many times without notice at his house. She would say she needed financial support, including gas for her car.
In September, he called her so that she could get her belongings, and on September 5 she called the police department.
On cross-examination, DDA Deanna Hays showed Mr. Kumar several pictures of bruises. She repeatedly asked him if he caused them. He continued to say no, that he did not do any of it.
The day ended and will resume on Thursday, May 16. Closing arguments are expected to be heard.
Testimony Concludes in Kumar Trial
By Charmayne Schmitz
Deputy District Attorney Hays presented her rebuttal witnesses on Thursday, which concluded the evidence stage of the trial of People v. Kumar. He is accused of corporal injury, assault by force, and intimidating a witness and victim.
The first witness to be called was the victim, Ms. Grom. Ms. Hays took her through a series of issues raised by the defendant in his testimony. First of all, the victim claimed no memory of an incident where she threw shoes at Mr. Kumar. The incident where she was left at the CVS and had to walk home seemed like a long walk to her because it was dark and took her about a half hour.
The trip they took to San Francisco was a planned trip. Kumar had said she forced her way into the car. In another incident, she hit him with a lamp. This happened because she claims he backed her into a corner and was punching her in the head.
The fight on the night where Mr. Kumar was cut by a wine bottle began because he had emailed his ex-girlfriend. She accused him of hurting her feelings and having a double standard. Mr. Kumar, on the stand, had accused her of being drunk, but he chugged the whole bottle of wine and most of the one glass she had poured for herself. Then he proceeded to the bedroom, threw the TV and a printer and went for her throat.
Another part of Mr. Kumar’s testimony claimed he was lying on the bed and Ms. Grom entered and attacked him. Ms. Grom claimed he was not lying down when she came home. He was not in the bedroom working, as he testified. She did not grab the computer or phone from him.
Mr. Kumar’s behavior often followed the typical pattern of spousal abuse. He would beat her, then feel sorry. Ms. Grom gave an example of this pattern after the wine bottle incident. She went to sleep downstairs by herself. Mr. Kumar came and got her and showed remorse for the injuries to her arm.
The defense attorney raised some issues from the preliminary hearing and tried to prove that Ms. Grom’s testimony was inconsistent. Ms. Grom held her ground with credible answers to his questions. First, he accused her of arriving at Kumar’s home with her wedding dress on. She claimed she put it on after she got there and didn’t know he would be home. Also, it’s not really a wedding dress, but an Indian dress that she “could” wear to a wedding.
Then Chris Parkhurst accused her of exaggerating how far she had to walk from CVS. Ms. Grom responded by saying she doesn’t know exactly how far it was, but it was dark and seemed far to her.
Mr. Parkhurst then presented a large number of copies of emails that she had not submitted to the prosecutor, essentially accusing her of withholding evidence. Ms. Grom said she was told to pick out the ones that were important to her. She admitted to writing the emails, asking for Mr. Kumar’s assistance and wanting to save their relationship. She doesn’t remember what all of them meant. She explained with “I wrote all this, I was a battered woman.”
The defense attorney wanted to know why she couldn’t drive herself to the doctor with a broken finger after one of their fights. Mr. Parkhurst said he himself had driven a car with a broken finger. The victim said she has a stick shift and Mr. Kumar had blocked her car with the garbage cans.
The jury asked why Ms. Grom went back to Mr. Kumar again and again. Her first response was she didn’t have an answer. She then went on to say she loved Rakesh and was determined to have the life they had planned together.
The officer who interviewed Mr. Kumar returned to the stand. The most interesting part of the rebuttal was concerning the requirements for establishing residency. Ms. Grom had personal items in the house and stayed with Mr. Kumar often enough to require proper notice before being asked to move out. Mr. Kumar also admitted on the recording to pushing and bruising Ms. Grom many times.
Closing arguments will be given on Friday morning and the jury will begin deliberations.