NEW YORK – NEW YORK (AP) — A woman accused of tossing her toddler in the Hudson River before jumping in herself is a devoted mother and former math teacher derailed by mental illness, her lawyer said Monday.
"This was a very unfortunate, traumatic and completely out-of-character incident," Devi Silvia's lawyer, Seema Iyer, told a judge. Iyer said Silvia has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
But prosecutors say Silvia deliberately threw her 19-month-old daughter into the chilly water and then plunged in May 11 to spite her husband.
Silvia, a native of India, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges Monday in a soft voice, with her lawyer asking the judge and prosecutors to speak slowly she could understand; an interpreter fluent in her native Tamil was unavailable. Iyer planned to recap the proceedings for Silvia later in Tamil, spoken widely in Silvia's home state of Tamil Nadu, on India's southeast coast.
Silvia has a master's degree in math and taught high-school students in her homeland, Iyer said.
But in recent years, Silvia and her husband, Dominic J. Prithiviraj, have moved around the United States to follow his work, prosecutors said. He now works for Oracle Corp., Iyer said; the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based business software giant didn't immediately respond to telephone and e-mail messages Monday.
By May, Silvia, 33, was lonely, longing to return to India and angry that her husband had been paying her little attention while tending to his hospitalized mother, authorities said.
"She said that she wanted to get back at them and to punish them," a detective said in court papers released Monday. "She wanted to hurt her husband by hurting the baby."
Witnesses saw Silvia throw the child, Jessica Prithiviraj, into the river off a pedestrian pier on Manhattan's Upper West Side and then jump in herself, police said.
Both were rescued and survived, but Jessica was blue and motionless when pulled from the roughly 50-degree water, prosecutors said.
A family court has appointed an aunt as guardian for Jessica and her 6-year-old sister, and the aunt is taking them to India on Wednesday to give them distance from their mother's troubles, Iyer said.
Silvia has been held in a jail hospital ward, where her psychiatric condition has stabilized, Iyer said. Iyer has asked a judge to release her; the judge may rule Friday.