Ex-wife holds no ill will in alleged high-speed DUI case
MOUNT CARMEL - The former wife of a Mount Carmel man accused of attempting to kill her and their 7-year-old son while allegedly driving drunk has no ill feelings toward the defendant and trusts a judge will sentence him fairly for his alleged criminal acts.
Manjit Dhindsa, 34, of 538 W. Third St., Mount Carmel, talked with a News-Item reporter about Saturday night's incidents that landed her ex-husband, Preetinder Singh Dhindsa, 34, of 327 S. Beech St., in county jail.
Wednesday morning's interview occurred shortly after the defendant waived his right to a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Hugh Jones on multiple offenses, including two counts each of driving under the influence of alcohol and unlawful restraint. Dhindsa was released from Northumberland County Prison early in the afternoon after Jones reduced his $20,000 cash bail to unsecured bail and ordered him to appear for a pre-trial conference at 9:15 a.m. June 6 in the Court of Common Pleas, Sunbury.
Jones ordered the defendant to avoid contact with his ex-wife and refrain from drinking alcohol and going to establishments that sell alcoholic beverages.
Dhindsa, who has been divorced from the defendant for about two years, believes alcohol was the major contributing factor for her ex-husband's decision to drive at a high rate speed following a disturbance at her home and crash his car into a monument at the entrance to St. John the Baptist Cemetery near Beaverdale at about 11 p.m.
Manjit Dhindsa and Haneet Dhindsa were passengers in the vehicle. All three occupants escaped injury.
"He has been very nice to me since our divorce," she said. "He has remarried since then and has another child. I believe everything happened that night because he was drinking."
She added, "He loves our son madly and has paid the rent for our home in Mount Carmel since our divorce. I trust in God and leave his punishment up to the judge who will sentence him."
Manjit said she and her son got into Preetinder's vehicle only to talk with him and had no intentions of riding in the car following an argument outside her home.
Manjit said she moved to Mount Carmel with her son in November after living in Iselin, N.J. She said her ex-husband has resided in Mount Carmel for about two years. She lived with Preetinder and their son in Bunjab, India, prior to coming to America. She said her ex-husband has regular visiting rights with his son.
Following the hearing, Haneet Dhindsa ran up to his father and gave him a hug and kiss. He also presented his dad with a card and wanted to talk with the judge when he was available.
The defendant, who was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, white socks, sandals, handcuffs and a restraint belt, smiled at his son and thanked his attorney, Greg Stuck, for requesting the judge to lower his bail.
Preetinder said he understood the ramifications of forfeiting his hearing as he signed the appropriate papers sending the case to county court.
The defendant also met briefly with his brother-in-law, Balwinder Singh, before leaving the courtroom.
No prior record
Stuck, who noted his client has no prior criminal record, said he expects Preetinder to enter a guilty plea and receive the minimum sentence for the DUI offense, which includes supervised probation.
In addition to the unlawful restraint and DUI offenses, the defendant is charged by Mount Carmel Township Patrolman Daniel Politza with misdemeanors of recklessly endangering another person, simple assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and summary offenses of reckless driving, accidents involving damage to unattended property and failure to give immediate notice of an accident to police.
Following the accident, Manjit Dhindsa told police her ex-husband was trying to kill her and their son. She said the trio got inside her former husband's vehicle and began traveling west on State Route 2038. She said Preetinder Dhindsa drove at a high rate of speed despite her attempts to get him to slow down.
As the car crested a hill on State Route 2038 near St. John the Baptist Cemetery, the defendant reportedly jerked the steering wheel, causing the auto to strike a large cement monument at the entrance to the cemetery. After hitting the monument, Dhindsa turned the vehicle around and began to go east on the highway before finally stopping the car near the entrance to Dooleyville.
Police said the defendant submitted to a preliminary breath test with the results being .168 percent. He also agreed to have a blood test taken at Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital. Results are pending.