Family Claims Miscarriage of Justice and Vows to Fight On
By Royston Sim –
A former Davis resident was sentenced to 378 years and 4 months in state prison Friday at the Yolo County Superior Court. It is one of the longest sentences in Yolo County history.
Superior Court Judge Timothy L. Fall sentenced Ajay Kumar Dev, 42, for his multiple count conviction of the serial molest and rape of his adopted daughter, which allegedly occurred between January 1999 and December 2004.
California law mandates full and consecutive sentences for the 46 forcible sexual assaults. Fall sentenced Dev to the upper term of eight years for each of those separate counts after saying the factors in aggravation, including violation of a position of trust, outweighed the sole factor in mitigation – the defender’s lack of prior record. Fall also sentenced Dev to the legally mandated full middle term of two years each for two separate acts of witness dissuasion against the victim.
“A consecutive sentence of six years and four months was handed down for six other non-forcible counts of chid molestation for which the jury had convicted Mr. Dev,” stated District Attorney Jeff Reisig in a news release. “Judge Fall also sentenced the defendant to the upper term of three years on twenty-two other counts but the execution of those sentences was stayed pursuant to the Penal Code.”
Before the hearing, Fall denied a motion for a new trial submitted by Dev’s attorney Michael Rothschild. Fall also denied a motion for bail pending appeal, saying there was no clear and convincing evidence showing Dev was unlikely to flee while on bail.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Dev, who was sentenced to nearly 400 years, was wrongly convicted and is an innocent man,” Rothschild said. He has filed a notice of appeal with the 3rd District Court of Appeal.
About 100 of Dev’s family and friends and members of the local Nepali community attended the sentencing hearing in a show of support. The victim did not attend. Three of Dev’s supporters made statements to the court on his behalf, each reiterating their belief in the defendant’s moral character and that he was incapable of committing the heinous crimes he was convicted of. Dev also addressed the court with an emotional plea of innocence that drew tears from several supporters.
One representative statement from Dev’s family and friends stated:
“It goes beyond reason that Ajay could be found not guilty on some counts, thereby abrogating the accuser’s account of events, and found guilty on others. The real victims are: an innocent man who has lost his freedom and is sitting in jail, a pregnant wife and young child who are bereft of their husband and father, parents who have witnessed the degradation of their son, and the many other family members and friends who have lost a source of spiritual strength, friendship, and inspiration.”
A native of Nepal, Dev had immigrated to the Davis area with his parents at age 13. He graduated from Chico State and worked for the California Water Resources Board as an engineer. In 1999, Dev and his wife brought the victim, a distant relative of Dev’s, to the United States. She lived with them and they provided for her education. They officially adopted the victim, who was 15 at the time, in December 1999.
According to the victim’s testimony, Dev began inappropriately touching her with the first few weeks of her arrival and later progressed to forced sexual assault and rape on a weekly basis. The assaults allegedly continued till the victim moved out of the Dev household in December 2004. According to a Yolo County press release, the victim reported the situation to the Davis Police Department after Dev threatened to get a gun and shoot himself and the victim if he didn’t allow him to continue to abuse her.
However, the case against Dev was not filed until two years later, in 2006, because the victim had returned to Nepal to attend her sister’s wedding and was imprisoned there on charges brought about by a relative alleging she had the wrong date of birth on her passport. The U.S. Embassy in Nepal and Davis law enforcement helped the victim return to the U.S where she filed charges.
Dev was remanded to custody without bail in 2009 after having been free on bail for the three years it took to get the case to trial. The trial lasted for two months, and the jury convicted Dev on 76 counts.
Rothschild argued that Fall’s sentence is excessive, whether Dev is guilty or innocent, and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Dev’s family and supporters continue to maintain he is not guilty of sexually assaulting his adopted daughter.
In a letter to Judge Fall, Tom Grothe, a friend who has known the Dev family for 21 years, wrote:
“[The victim’s] claims are outrageous lies. For example, she claimed that she was raped when they spent the night in our Monterey home. I witnessed them sleep in different rooms in a tiny 2-bedroom house with 2 dogs and open doors. I witnessed the girl wake up, after allegedly being raped, and wedge herself on the couch between her adopted parents.”
Dev’s supporters also claim the prosecution had limited and vague evidence, including a lack of physical evidence and contradictory testimony by the victim. They have created a Web site, www.advocatesforajay.com, and intend to continue fighting to prove his innocence.
Roystom Sim is a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin in Journalism. He is currently an intern for the Vanguard.