Old Bridge beating suspect Steven Contreras, accused in murder of Divyendu Sinha, back in court

judge threw out a plea deal offered to Steven Contreras because he lied on the stand. (2/21/14)

OLD BRIDGE - A defendant in the beating death of Old Bridge doctor Divyendu Sinha was back in court in New Brunswick Friday.

A judge threw out a plea deal offered to Steven Contreras because he lied on the stand.

Contreras had a deal in place to serve four years in prison, but now he'll be exposed to the maximum of 30 years at sentencing.      

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The Middlesex County prosecutor argued and a judge agreed that Contreras lied when testifying about his friends' part in the beating death of Sinha.

"This is a young man who came into this courtroom and actively went out of his way to hurt the state’s efforts regarding the two remaining co-defendants," according to Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet.

"This court is clearly convinced that this young man's conduct was deliberate and he was attempting to help his friends," Judge Bradley Ferencz told the defendant.

Contreras was driving the car with four of his friends inside as they targeted the Sinha family while out on a walk.  The family's two teenage boys were also assaulted, but it was Divyenda Sinha who did not survive.    

Defense attorney Carlos Diaz wants the original deal thrown out so his client can get a new trial, and hopes to avoid a 30-year sentence.  He argued that Contreras is a victim of double jeopardy.

"If somebody is found not guilty of a conspiracy to commit aggravated assault in the second degree, certainly that bars the state from going forward with any prosecution for that same charge," Diaz says.

Judge Ferencz quickly denied that notion, saying Contreras asked to plea to conspiracy instead of manslaughter.

Contreras' attorneys say they will continue arguments to have the plea withdrawn in March.

The four other men involved in the Sinha beating have already been sentenced. 

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