A mother who tossed her toddler into the Hudson River after suddenly spiraling into psychosis can return to her native India and her children, a judge said Friday after she reached a rare form of agreement with prosecutors to resolve her attempted-murder case.
Devi Silvia will continue treatment and medication in India, with New York authorities monitoring her progress during five years of probation.
Her lawyers called it a just result for a woman whose conduct was driven by a mental illness that emerged only in the days before she threw her daughter into the chilly river off Manhattan's Upper West Side, then leaped in herself, in May 2010.
"Ms. Silvia has always been a tremendously caring and loving mother, who at the age of 34 had no prior symptoms of mental illness and had no idea what was happening to her at the time of the incident," the law firm that represented her, Bingham McCutchen LLP, said in a statement. "Ms. Silvia has been in full remission now for nearly two years, and she has been a model patient in every category."
Over the roughly four days before the river plunge, the former high school math teacher from the southeast Indian state of Tamil Nadu thought she saw a strange bright light coming from her bedroom door during the night, had the idea that God had sent someone to clean her kitchen and felt her 6-year-old and people at the child's school were giving her unusual and frightening looks, prosecutors have said.
On the morning when Silvia and her younger daughter, Jessica Prithiviraj, would end up in the river, the mother believed she heard a dog in a playground tell her she also was a dog, then heard a voice command her to leap into the river as she and the toddler walked alongside it, prosecutors said in November, when they agreed to let her resolve the case by pleading not guilty because of mental illness. The Manhattan district attorney's office made only a handful of such pacts last year; they're sanctioned by state law for cases in which prosecutors believe an insanity defense would prevail at trial.
"I don't know what I was doing," Silvia said during her plea.
Jessica, then 21 months old, was blue and motionless and wasn't breathing when rescuers plucked her and Silvia from the roughly 50-degree water, prosecutors said. Both mother and daughter recovered. Silvia was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Silvia, a former math teacher in her homeland, had been in the United States for several years because her husband was working here. A relative took Jessica and her older sister back to India after their mother's arrest.
After about three months in a psychiatric hospital jail ward, Silvia was released on $10,000 bail and was ordered to attend psychiatric treatment five days a week.
Her plea could have meant psychiatric hospitalization, but doctors found she's now healthy enough not to need it, Assistant District Attorney Patricia Bailey said Friday.
Silvia "is thrilled to be able to rejoin her family," said Bingham McCutchen. Firm partner Daniel M. McGillycuddy appeared in court on Silvia's case.
If Silvia develops problems while under treatment in India, a court can order her brought back to New York.
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