Ceres man exonerated in Modesto kidnapping. Video shows it never happened

Hear from Ceres man falsely accused of kidnapping, see surveillance video involved

A Stanislaus County judge found a Ceres man to be “factually innocent” after a girl told authorities that she lied about being a victim of an attempted kidnapping in Modesto. Surveillance video brought forth the girl's confession.
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A Stanislaus County judge found a Ceres man to be “factually innocent” after a girl told authorities that she lied about being a victim of an attempted kidnapping in Modesto. Surveillance video brought forth the girl's confession.

Sandeep Singh spent the past several months fighting allegations that he tried to kidnap a 14-year-old girl from a Modesto residential neighborhood.

It turned out the girl lied about the whole thing; it never happened.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova on Wednesday dismissed the criminal case against Singh after determining that the Ceres man was “factually innocent” at the request of the prosecution.

“I’m just happy that the truth came out,” Singh said shortly after Wednesday’s hearing. “Basically, I think I got my life back.”

The teenage girl told Modesto police officers that a man approached her in a vehicle about 4 p.m. on June 26 and grabbed her as she walked along the 600 block of Tokay Avenue, but she was able to break free.

She described the suspect as a man of Indian descent and gave a good description of the vehicle, Modesto police officials told The Modesto Bee at the time.

The girl identified Singh as the kidnapping suspect when police took her to where he was near his pickup, according to Kirk McAllister, Singh’s attorney. That identification led to his arrest.

As part of the defense attorney’s investigation, McAllister found and subpoenaed security camera video from a nearby church. The attorney said Singh’s pickup and its distinctive yellow exterior can be seen in the security camera video, contradicting the girl’s story to police.

“It showed his pickup and it showed him driving past the young woman and never stopping,” McAllister said. “So, it totally exonerated him.”

Deputy District Attorney Erin Schwartz, who prosecuted the case, told the judge on Wednesday that she reviewed the security camera video, which showed her that the alleged victim’s story to police was “essentially an impossibility.”

The teenage girl told police that she was able to run away after the kidnapping attempt near Standiford Elementary School, a few blocks east of McHenry Avenue.

McAllister said his client was on his cell phone speaking to a friend as he drove to a shopping center. That’s where he was found and detained by police.

Singh said he had no clue as to what was happening to him. He said that he pleaded with police to continue their investigation, and he was willing to be detained for hours, but he asked the officers not to arrest him.

“I was completely shocked,” Singh said about his arrest. “It just brought my life upside down.”

Singh was booked at the Stanislaus County Jail. He later posted a $200,000 bail bond to be released. Prosecutors on July 18 filed a criminal complaint against Singh, charging him with felony kidnapping.

A preliminary hearing had been scheduled for Feb. 26 to determine whether there was enough evidence for Singh to stand trial. McAllister was confident the evidence the defense presented would result in the judge dropping the case against his client.

The defense attorney said the girl subtly told police that she didn’t want any security camera video found, and she later provided authorities a pair of pants that were ripped at the knee during the claimed struggle with the suspect. McAllister said police noted that she didn’t have any scrapes on her knees.

“There were clues here, but they weren’t picked up on,” McAllister said after Wednesday’s hearing. “And I commend the prosecutor for doing the right thing and the ethical thing and dismissing it today.”

Prosecution questions girl

After reviewing the security camera video, the prosecutor said authorities questioned the girl again. Schwartz told the judge that the girl confirmed that the attempted kidnapping didn’t happen, and “she lied about what Mr. Singh did.”

Schwartz said the District Attorney’s Office was dropping the criminal case, and she asked the court to find Singh factually innocent and seal the records of his arrest. Córdova granted the prosecutor’s request.

Singh said these types of accusations stay with you for the rest of your life, unless your case ends the way his ended this week. He said he’s just glad the girl told the truth, and he’s now vindicated.

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Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.