By Kendra Hall
Today in Department 8 of Yolo County Superior Court the trial of Baljit Singh began, with Judge David W. Reed presiding over the case. Singh is accused of felony assault and infliction of corporal injury upon his spouse. He is also accused of misdemeanor charges of inflicting corporal injury upon a child.
On the morning of August 10, 2018, an altercation between the newlywed couple took place at the apartment Singh shared with his wife and her two children from a previous marriage. This exchange ended with a call to the local police department at about 10:50am that morning.
During their opening statements, Deputy District Attorney Preston Schaub and Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira made strong arguments. Schaub told the jury that the facts of the case were simple and would tell a compelling story of a woman who suffered abuse at the hands of her spouse. Ms. Sequeira countered, arguing that there is a lack of physical evidence to support the alleged injuries the defendant claims to have suffered. Rather, Sequeira insisted that the credibility of the complaining witness should warrant scrutiny, inferring that the alleged victim may have entered the marriage with Mr. Singh for monetary reasons. In addition, the defense remarked that the alleged victim’s knowledge of a 10-year-old domestic violence charge against Mr. Singh potentially offered her a convenient “eject button” from the relationship.
As she began her testimony, she told the court of her life and previous marriage in India. She indicated that the untimely death of her first husband and a subsequent request by her father prompted her to emigrate to the United States on a family visa in 2016. She testified that she worked two jobs and met Mr. Singh through a customer, who was also a friend, sometime in the early part of 2018. Shortly thereafter, with support from her father, she agreed to a marriage arrangement. She stated during her testimony that she believed Mr. Singh would be a “good” husband because he had a job, didn’t drink, and told her that he respected women. Subsequently, the two were quickly married on March 5 of this year.
Her story of this seemingly well-arranged marriage then took a sharp turn.
She testified that for the “whole of March he [Mr. Singh] didn’t go to work.” She also indicated that Mr. Singh began drinking heavily and that he would become angry with her if she spent money, even her own money, on the children or even on Mr. Singh himself. She described a husband who frequently resorted to calling her names, slapping her, and using “bad language” toward her and about her family members, stating that “small incidents happened many times.”
She then described what was allegedly the first major incident wherein Mr. Singh became physically violent. She indicated that this first incident occurred on her son’s birthday, in June of 2018. She testified that Mr. Singh, although drinking throughout the day, had remained pleasant in front of the guests. However, after the guests left, she indicated that Singh became physically violent with her, stating that he ultimately punched her in the abdomen. This was an injury which she claimed left her with pain for about a week.
The witness indicated that Mr. Singh’s aggressive behavior toward her generally seemed to occur while he was intoxicated. She said that Singh would deny any wrongdoing when she made attempts to address this behavior with him later. Thus, in response, she attempted to make video and audio recordings of Mr. Singh when he was engaging in physically or verbally abusive behavior. However, she stated that “whenever I pointed the phone at him, [Mr. Singh] he stopped hitting me.”
She stated that, due to this, the video and audio she was able to record only shows Singh using crude language toward her. Unfortunately, her video and or audio recordings were not played for the court during the morning session.
She indicated that it was this attempt to record and then prove his behavior to him, which allegedly prompted Mr. Singh to assault her on the morning of August 10, 2018.
The witness stated that in her culture it is not customary to call the police over domestic violence matters. Therefore, prior to August 10, she said that she had attempted to deal with Mr. Singh’s actions by calling the friend, “Mr. K,” who had arranged the marriage and/or Singh’s employer. She stated that on the morning of the incident in question she felt frightened and alone, which prompted her call to police.
She indicated that on the morning of August 10 she attempted to confront Mr. Singh with a recording of his recent behavior, at which point he became angry. She asserted that when the argument started, Mr. Singh slapped her twice while the two were still in the couple’s bedroom. She stated that she then left Singh in the bedroom, believing that he needed to be left alone, and proceeded to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for the family. She specified that she was in front of the stove when Mr. Singh came into the room and, “grabbed my neck,” pushing her to a corner of the kitchen. Mr. Schaub then asked her what she was thinking about at that time. She answered, “What have I done? I trusted him and now he’s trying to physically harm me.” She stated that the whole event happened very quickly and that she felt afraid for her life. She stated that then her eldest son, who was 17 years old at the time, saw Singh grab her neck and quickly came into the kitchen from the living room and attempted to separate the two, ultimately punching Singh in the face. She stated that after this occurred, she and her children went outside, at which time she called the police.
On cross-examination, Ms. Sequeira also questioned the witness about the events of August 10 as well as other possible ulterior motivations for her marriage to Mr. Singh. The witness would not admit any knowledge of an alleged $50,000 real estate investment Mr. Singh had made. She denied sending Mr. Singh any papers regarding the transfer of the ownership of this alleged real estate investment over to her since Singh’s placement in police custody. Immediately after this statement, the witness did offer that she “asked [Mr. K] because I trusted him” and that since she “left my father’s house” to get married she did not know where she was now supposed to go. It was unclear from her statement if she was indeed admitting that she may have approached Mr. K about Mr. Singh’s potential real estate deal.
When Ms. Sequeira further questioned the witness about the content of the argument on the morning of August 10. She denied any connection between the argument and her alleged desire for Mr. Singh to buy her son a car. The witness insisted that she never argued with Singh and that he had consistently been the aggressor.
She did, however, admit to Ms. Sequeira that, although Mr. Singh had repeatedly asked for a divorce, she refused to consent to one “without a reason” and Mr. K, the friend who was instrumental in arranging the marriage, advised her that she should get some “compensation” for the five-month long troubled marriage to Mr. Singh.
The witness was excused at the close of the morning session, subject to possible recall. The trial resumed through the afternoon and is expected to end tomorrow.