Judge grants new trial for Georgia man convicted of sexual assault, burglary 22 years later

A Gwinnett County judge has granted a new trial for a Georgia man convicted of sexual assault and burglary 22 years ago.

Sandeep "Sonny" Bharadia has been fighting and maintaining his innocence since 2001 when he was accused of attacking a woman at knife-point before fleeing the scene with some of her belongings. The victim said her attacker was wearing blue and white gloves.

The crime happened at the victim's home in Thunderbolt. Bharadia claimed he was working on a friend's car in Lithonia at the time, over 250 miles away.

Sonny Bharadia (Supplied)

A few days after the assault, Sonny called the police to report his car being stolen.

When police investigated the alleged carjacker, they found he was in possession of the sexual assault victim's personal belongings, as well as a pair of blue and white gloves.

A spokesperson from the Georgia Innocence Project said despite the victim identifying the alleged carjacker first as her potential attacker, she also identified Bharadia as a potential attacker after the blame was shifted and she was shown a second lineup.

Sonny Bharadia and family (Supplied)

The district attorney charged both Bharadia and the alleged carjacker, Sterling Flint.

Flint pleaded guilty to receiving the victim's stolen property and testified against Bharadia.

Though there was no physical evidence tied to Bharadia, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on June 27, 2003.

During the trial, the gloves were notably never tested for DNA. But years later, a lab in California was able to prove the DNA was not a match for Bharadia, but was for Flint.

Bharadia filed a writ of habeas corpus on March 28, 2011.

The Georgia Innocence Project (GIP) and pro bono counsel filed an amended petition on December 30, 2022. Gwinnett County Judge Laura Tate held the hearing on June 20, 2023, and granted a writ of habeas corpus in April.

GIP made the legal document, sans the exhibits, available to FOX 5 Atlanta.

The Attorney General's office has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the judge's ruling.

If they do not, the order becomes final and the case will be returned for a new trial in Chatham County where Bharadia was originally convicted.

What is a writ of habeas corpus?

"A writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner or other detainee (e.g. institutionalized mental patient) before the court to determine if the person's imprisonment or detention is lawful," by Cornell Law School's definition.