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Divyendu Sinha Murder Case:Steven Contreras Pleads Guilty to 2nd Degree charge of “Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Assault” in a Plea Bargain Deal

Divyendu Sinha Murder Case Update-30 November 28, 2012

 Steven Contreras Pleads Guilty to 2nd Degree charge of “Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Assault” in a Plea Bargain Deal

1. As part of the plea bargain, Contreras plead guilty to the charge of “Conspiracy to commit Aggravated Assault”, which is a 2nd degree charge.  For purposes of sentencing, he will be sentenced for a 3rd degree charge with a jail term of up to 4 years.  The reasons for this are as follows:

  • The original charge that he was to be tried for is “Reckless Manslaughter” (2nd degree).  However, the plea agreement changed this to “Conspiracy to commit Aggravated Assault” (also 2nd degree), because by pleading guilty to a 2nd degree conspiracy charge, it greatly helps us in establishing the other 4 as co-conspirators in the next trial.
  • Secondly, in order to sentence him to only 4 years max, the charge to be used for sentencing needed to be downgraded to a 3rd degree charge, since 4 years falls below the guideline range for 2nd degree offenses.


Update-30 November 28, 2012  

 November 28, 2012

 Dear Supporters of Sinha Family and Community Members:

Namaste. We communicated to you last on July 9 where we informed you that Steven Contreras, the driver of the car that carried other four defendants in the case of The State of New Jersey Vs. Steven K. Contreras for the murder of Dr.Divyendu Sinha on June 26, 2010 had rejected a plea bargain on June 20 and the court had set September 24, 2012 as the trial date for the charge of Reckless Manslaughter (Count 5C: Steven K. Contreras did recklessly cause the death of Dr. Divyendu Sinha)on which the previous jury was hung. Later that date was changed to November 27, 2012.

Divyendu Sinha

                                                                                                                                                                                              (Dr. Divyendu Sinha 1961-2010)

I had received several email inquiries in last couple of months inquiring about the status of the case. As we did not have firm information and we were expecting further delays, I had not been able to provide any update. In the mean time, I had to go to Bharat for a short visit and returned on 11/26 to be in time for the possible start of the trial.  On that night, the day before the trial was to start, the Assistant Prosecutor, Mr. Christopher Kuberiet called Alkabahen and informed her that Defense attorney, Mr. Abdellah had conveyed to him that Steven Contreras (SC) was ready to accept a plea deal with some modifications. Alkabahen had an urgent meeting with Mr. Kuberiet and it was decided to accept  the guilty plea from SC.

So, yesterday morning we were at the Middlesex Superior Court in the court room of Judge Bardley Ferencz. There were 150 potential jurors waiting downstairs to be called for jury selection. The judge asked counsels from both sides to state their position.

The plea deal was essentially same that the prosecutor had offered on June 20th except that the maximum exposure to jail time was reduced from five years to four years.

Mr. Abdellah went through a series of questions that he asked SC as per the standard procedure. Sc answered yes to the following questions.

  • Were you in the town of Old Bridge on the night of June 25, 2010?
  • Were you driving a vehicle?
  • Were the four defendants (Julian Daley, Christopher Conway, Cash Johnson and Christian Tinli) in your car?
  • Did you agree to go and f*** someone up?
  • Did you understand that f*** someone up meant causing serious bodily injury?
  • were there two incidences (of altercation)? {later on the Assistant Prosecutor corrected this as there were three incidences that night.)
  • Did four persons jumped out from your car (to attack Dr. Sinha and his family)?

                                                                                                     Steven Contreras-2.jpg                                  

                                                                                                                                                                                       Convicted Criminal, driver of the car: 

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Steven Contreras

Then Mr. Kuberiet asked a number of questions to which SC answered in affirmative.

  • There were three incidences and not two?
  • You said you were angry when Mr. Martino escaped from you?
  • you waited for the four defendants with your car lights off?
  • You were aware that there was serious bodily injury being caused?

Then Mr. Abdellah asked SC if he understood the following, to which SC answered Yes:

  • By pleading guilty, you are waving your right to a trial
  • You will have a felony record
  • You lose right to appeal
  • There is a presumption that you will go to jail
  • For 2nd degree Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Assault , you could be sentenced to 10 years in a state prison with 85% mandatory incarceration
  • The State will recommend to the judge to impose a sentence of no more than 4 years inclusive of all other third degree charges on which you are convicted (there was conviction on six charges.)
  • In exchange of that recommendation you will fully cooperate and testify truthfully on behalf of the State in the trial of four defendants
  • If you fail to cooperate, the Prosecution will ask the judge to cancel the deal and you could be sentenced to the full term (i.e., 10 years)
  • As a youthful offender, you will not go to the State prison
  • You do not have to pay any restitution
  • If you move to another state (during post incarceration probation period), you will need to seek permission from the court
  • Your education history, health history and family history will be evaluated before imposing the sentence
  • If you violate probation after serving your sentence (3 to 4 years), you will have to serve the full term under the law (10 years.)
  • Are you satisfied with my service

SC answered in negative when he was asked if he was coerced, threatened, influenced or promised anything other than what was written in the plea deal.

Then Assistant Prosecutor, Mr. Kuberiet turned to SC and said the following:

  • Very soon, the Judge will proclaim you guilty; do you want to speak with anyone before you plead guilty? SC answered “No.”
  • CK: Were you forced, threatened or otherwise influenced by anyone to plead guilty? SC: No.
  • CK: you can get 7 years if after serving 85% of the imposed sentence, you do not behave.
  • CK; if you do not cooperate in the trial of remaining four defendants, you will get maximum sentence, i.e., 10 years, plus possibly consecutive sentences for all third degree charges on which you were convicted; and you will not be able to ask for a trial.

Now, the Judge, Bradley Ferencz (BF) addressed SC, who stood up to plead guilty.

  • Understand that the plea is between you, your lawyer and the Prosecutor. The Court is not a party to it
  • Once the plea is accepted, it is permanent
  • You have stated that you have spoken to your lawyer
  • That he has answered all your questions
  • That he has served you well
  • That you have read and understood the guilty plea and the deal without any pressure
  • That you have answered all questions honestly
  • That you were not threatened or forced to accept the deal and plead guilty
  • That you are/were not under influence of any drug. alcohol.medicine that would impair your ability to make a decision
  • That you are completely cognizant
  • That the State has asked that you be sentenced to four years in a prison
  • If I accept the plea, you will be sentenced to from 3 to 4 years
  • If I do not accept the plea, I will impose a longer sentence; you can ask for a trial and whatever you said today cannot be used against you in the trial
  • If you do not cooperate with the prosecution (as a part of the plea bargain), the plea stands, that is, you remain guilty and you cannot ask for a trial but your sentence will be increased to up to 10 years plus possibly consecutive sentences for other crimes for which you are already convicted
  • You have to come here for the sentencing. If you do not and run away from the law, they will eventually catch you and you will be looking at 15 years in a state prison.

SC answered yes to each statement indicating that he understood the implications of his decision to plead guilty and consequences of failing to cooperate or failing to appear for sentencing.

The above process lasted about 25 minutes. Then at 10:25 am, the judge announced that he had accepted the negotiated Guilty plea of Steven Contreras. Thus after almost two years and five months to the day, came some relief to Alkabahen, her sons and her well wishers.

With the consent of defense attorney and the Assistant Prosecutor, the judge deferred the sentencing until after the trial of four co-defendants was concluded and decided that SC can stay free in the mean time.

This paves way for  the next trial of four co-defendants, i.e., Julian Daley, Christopher Conway, Cash Johnson and Christian Tinli.


Christian Tinli     Cash Johnson  Christopher Conway Julian Daley   (From top left, anti-clockwise)

It is likely that the trial will start in late January, 2013. We will keep you posted of developments. Let us not lose the focus. We want to work together as a community of law abiding citizens as this effects all- US Citizens, Indian immigrants, Blacks, Whites and Asians as well as people of any religious persuasion. When the trial starts, we will need your support in being present in the court as you did for the first trial.

On behalf of Ms. Alka Sinha and the family, we thank you for your tremendous support.

Gaurang G. Vaishnav

Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA)

Follow Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America at: 

Disclaimer: This is a synopsis of court hearing based on notes taken by me. Not all communications are captured and while I attempt to be as accurate as possible, there may be legal points that could have been missed or misinterpreted. – Gaurang 

These are the third degree charges on which Sc was convicted earlier:

Count 1b (Conspiracy):

Steven K. Contreras did conspire with Julian C. Daley and/or Christian M. Tinli and/or Christopher Conway and/or Cash Q. Johnson to commit the crime of aggravated assault, significant bodily injury, and did an overt act.

Count 3b (Aggravated Assault):

Steven K. Contreras did purposely attempt to cause significant bodily injury to Anthony Martino.


Count 6b (Significant Bodily Injury):

Steven K. Contreras did purposely attempt to cause significant bodily injury to A.S. (Ashish Sinha.)


Count 7b (Significant Bodily Injury):

Steven K. Contreras did purposely attempt to cause significant bodily injury to R.S. (Ravi Sinha.)

Count 8 (Riot):

Steven K. Contreras did participate, within a group of four (4) persons, in a course of disorderly conduct with purpose to commit or facilitate the commission of a crime.

Count 9 (Hindering Prosecution or Apprehension):

Steven K. Contreras with purpose to hinder the apprehension, prosecution, conviction or punishment of another person, that is, 

 Julian C. Daley and/or Christian M. Tinli and/or Christopher Conway and/or Cash Q. Johnson did suppress, by way of concealment or destruction, any evidence of a crime, or tamper with a document or other source of information, regardless of its admissibility in evidence, which might aid in the discovery or apprehension of the said Julian C. Daley and/or Christian M. Tinli and/or Christopher Conway and/or Cash Q. Johnson or in the lodging of a charge against Julian C. Daley and/or Christian M. Tinli and/or Christopher Conway and/or Cash Q. Johnson and/or volunteered false information to a law enforcement officer.


Aggravated Assault on any party, significant. [ X ]

Criminal Mischief [ X ]

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