Who is Lauren Pazienza's fiance Naveen Pereira? Woman in fatal shoving of NYC voice coach rejects plea deal AGAIN
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK: The 26-year-old Long Island woman, Lauren Pazienza, who was accused of shoving a beloved 87-year-old voice coach to her death on a Manhattan street, rejected a plea deal from prosecutors on Tuesday, July 19 that could have landed her behind bars for 15 years for the second time. Pazienza appeared in court handcuffed on Tuesday, where she rejected the plea deal.
According to her attorney, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, twice offered Pazienza the recommended sentence in exchange for a guilty plea to first-degree manslaughter in the March 10 death of Barbara Maier Gustern. She also failed to have her manslaughter charge dropped, according to the New York Post. She faces up to 25 years in prison.
Pazienza, a former event organizer and heir to a Long Island cesspool empire, is accused of calling the elderly woman a "bitch" and pushing her to the ground in an unprovoked attack on Chelsea's West 28th Street on March 10. Gustern, a vocal coach for the likes of Blondie frontwoman and New York icon Debbie Harry, died five days later from her injuries on March 15.
Who is Naveen Pereira?
During the night of the incident, Pazienza was with her fiancee Naveen Pereira, who works as a consultant at Microsoft. Pereira told the prosecutors that they were celebrating their upcoming wedding at nearby Chelsea Park. He also told that Pazienza had “several glasses of wine.” Assistant District Attorney Justin McNabney said Pazienza flew into a rage after downing a few glasses of wine and while celebrating the couple was asked to leave because it was closing time. And they even got into a fight before the incident took place.
A 38-year-old neighbor of Pazienza described her as “a very angry person” and “somebody who really does not process the fact that other people have feelings and consideration and doesn’t process the fact that there’s a world outside herself.” The neighbor also mentioned the fights between Pazienza and Pereira. “You hear screaming fights between her and her fiance,” he said. “You would never hear the fiance. You would just hear her screaming," The New York Post reported.
Following the arrest reports, former batchmates of Pazienza from the Fashion Institute of Technology told DailyMail that Pazienza was, ''abusive to her boyfriend [now fiancé Naveen Pereira] on multiple occasions.'' They added, ''She cheated on him on multiple occasions. He was reserved and very kind and seemed annoyed with her when I met him and fearful of her". They further described Pazienza as ''a very manipulative person.''
Lauren Pazienza shoving case in court
When Pazienza learned of Gustern's death, she fled New York to her parents' home on Long Island, deleted her social media accounts, including her wedding website, stopped using her cellphone, and stashed it at her aunt's, according to the prosecutor. “She successfully evaded apprehension for almost two weeks, despite the extraordinary resources devoted to finding her,” McNabney said.
Following her arrest about two weeks after the attack, Pazienza was released on $500,000 bail — but was thrown back in jail on May 10 after Justice Felicia Menin labeled her a “serious flight risk.” The 26-year-old Long Island native rejected her first plea in April through her lawyers on an indictment charging her with first-degree manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault in the death of Gustern, The Post reported.
''I'm concerned that Ms. Pazienza is a flight risk - and is a serious flight risk,'' Mennin said at the time. ''It appears that [the shove] was for a random reason. The victim in this case was apparently left lying on the sidewalk. The defendant walked away.'' Mennin continued, ''She faces significant prison time if convicted. Although that may not seem a reality at this time, as the case proceeds, I have serious concerns it may affect her desire to return to court.''
Pazeienza's attorney Arthur Aidala attempted to dismiss the top manslaughter charge against his client. However, acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Felicia Mennin upheld the charge, citing minutes from the grand jury hearing that resulted in Pazienza's indictment. Aidala told The Post, "Obviously we are disappointed by the judge’s ruling". “We feel that pushing someone one time, not knowing their age or any disability rises to the level to satisfy the elements of manslaughter in the first degree. we will keep pursuing justice the best we can.” Prosecutors are still awaiting Gustern’s final autopsy report, McNabney said during the brief court hearing Tuesday, July 19.
What happened to Barbara Gustern?
On March 10, Gustern was walking down West 28th Street when Pazienza, 26, allegedly called her a "bitch" and shoved her to the sidewalk. Gustern, a singer-turned-teacher whose clients included Debbie Harry and Broadway performers, died on March 15. Gustern was attacked without provocation across the street from the Church of the Holy Apostles, where hundreds of mourners had gathered. To commemorate each year of Gustern's life, a bell tolled 87 times.
“Eight decades of incomparable integrity and love, lost to a random act of senseless violence,” the program for the service read noting Gustern was attacked “within window view of her Chelsea home," The Post reported. The Rev Anna Pearson, the church rector, said Gustern spoke recently about the challenges of a performing arts career and how she would feel herself getting negative if she wasn’t hired.
Gustern’s husband, Joe, who performed in “Phantom of the Opera,” died in 2017. Their only child, Katherine, died in 2003. Gustern’s grandson, AJ Gustern, said his grandmother “worked so hard to make me feel worthy of my own humanity.” “I can say with certainty if my ‘BobBob’ didn’t step up to fill the void left by my mother I wouldn’t be here with all you today,” he said.