BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Caution: The following story contains graphic details which may be disturbing to some readers.
Under the terms of a plea agreement, Sachin Pandey, 31, was granted a conditional discharge and placed on three years of supervised probation Nov. 14 in First Judicial District Court. Pandey was arrested in September 2017 and charged with aggravated battery, false imprisonment and attempt to commit a felony – sexual assault in connection with an incident Sept. 24, 2017 at Camp May. Pandey pleaded no contest to the aggravated battery charge and the other two charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
A conditional discharge is sometimes granted when a person who has not been previously convicted of a felony offense is found guilty of a crime for which a deferred or suspended sentence is authorized. The person may receive a conditional discharge and be placed on probation. A conditional discharge may only be granted to a person once. The judge is not required to enter an adjudication of guilty and in this case, Judge Jason C. Lidyard accepted a plea of no contest.
Judge Lidyard ordered Pandey to pay restitution of $5,087.16 – $728.47 to the victim and $4,358 to her medical insurance company. Judge Lidyard is allowing Pandey to petition for early release from probation after two years if restitution has been paid and there is no Court-adjudicated violation of probation. Pandey is to have no contact with the victim or her family. He is allowed to have his probation to Pennsylvania were he currently lives.
Assistant District Attorney Kent Wahlquist told Judge Lidyard the victim did not want to Court during the sentencing but that she had provided him with a statement that he would like to read to the Court. He also asked that the Court review a photo of the victim’s injuries.
The victim’s statement said that on the night in question she was at Camp May with a group of friends enjoying a campfire and drinks. She said Pandey was present around the campsite and she had limited interaction with him. She said the people that were hanging out with her left to get someone to bed leaving just the victim and Pandey at the campsite.
“My memory of the following events are not complete. What I do remember and will never be able to forget is the revulsion and fear that I felt as I tried to defend myself from his assault. I still a year later have nightmares about him touching my hair, coming on to me and trying to kiss me,” she said. “The overwhelming emotion behind the nightmare is terror, disgust and the need to get as far away from him as I could.”
She said during her attempt to get away from him she ended up with over 20 groups of defensive wounds head to toe, a gash on her face that required four stitches, a concussion and a broken nose, bruises all over her arms from him holding her down and bruises on her inner thighs where he tried to open her legs. She said she was covered with dirt and gravel front and back, that her mouth had dirt in it and her shoes were untied from how hard she was kicking the ground when she was face down.
“As I was trying to defend myself, he straddled me and hit me in the face with a rock which left me stunned. At that moment as I watched his hand swing the rock towards my face, I never felt so much fear. After he hit me I could barely move. I remember trying so hard to stay conscious and move just a finger because that would mean I could keep fighting him off and he wouldn’t be able to succeed in raping me or hurt me further,” the victim’s statement said.
She said she believes the people that were camping with her came back and he got off her before he was able to go further to do further harm. She said the impact of his actions that night is difficult to put into words.
“The first week of my recovery was the most painful physically. My face was incredibly swollen. I couldn’t touch my nose without nerve pain down into my front teeth and had a post-concussive headache that was debilitating. I had night terrors every time I tried to sleep that left me paralyzed with panic and fear. The pain eased as the days went by and I was able to heal physically for the most part but continued to have post-concussive headaches for three months that made it impossible for me to go to work consistently,” she said.
The victim said she runs her own business, lost thousands of dollars in income during those months, lost long-term clients that had been devoted to her business for years and that her business reputation was permanently harmed by not being able reliably keep appointments that she attempted to schedule in an effort to return to her normal life.
“As the days have gone by, I realize that life will never be normal for me ever again. While (Pandey) was still living in Los Alamos I couldn’t even bring myself to go to the grocery store because I was afraid that he would be there. I was on guard and scared everywhere I went. For the first time since moving to Los Alamos 10 years I was afraid to be home alone or to go to bed without the doors locked. Since he has moved out of Los Alamos, some of my security in life has returned but I still am nervous every time I am around a man I don’t know. I am still wary of being alone or walking to my vehicle alone in the empty parking lot when I get off work at night. I am constantly conscious and fearful of the fact that there are predatory people in this world waiting to take advantage of a vulnerable situation,” the victim’s statement said.
She said she agreed with the DA to allow (Pandey) to take the plea bargain even though she doesn’t feel it holds the consequences he truly deserves for his actions. She said she decided not to fight for him to have to register as a sex offender, not because he isn’t one but because she wants her life to return to normal as much as possible and doesn’t have the emotional strength to go through the court proceedings it would require or deal with the risk of losing that battle of having him have no lasting consequences for his actions that changed her life forever.
Pandey’s attorney Kitren Fischer said Pandey lost his research position at Los Alamos National Laboratory because of the case. She said he lost all his friends and he returned to Pennsylvania to live with his parents.
“Make no mistake that this case has negatively impacted his life and has forever changed the trajectory of his life,” Fischer said.