A former asylum seeker from Sudan, who went on to get a masters at Oxford has been accused of ‘exerting power’ over women in a strong of offences after he molested a receptionist whilst dropping off his children at nursery.
Father-of-two Leeri Marella, 48, inexplicably gave the shocked victim a hug at as he was leaving the building, having left the youngsters with staff. As she tried to fight him off, he then lifted her clothing with his fingers before stroking her back.
The 21-year-old receptionist was so traumatized by the unwelcome encounter she quit her job. She now claims she has been suffering with severe anxiety and depression and if a stranger approaches her, she becomes nervous and apprehensive.
Considering a string of other convictions for crimes against women, all involving ‘the exertion of power over someone clearly less powerful’, Judge Hilary Manley warned him to ‘think very carefully’ before making advances on women in future.
Marella successfully claimed asylum in 1986 from his native Sudan where he got a degree in Geology then completed a masters at Oxford University.
But since his arrival in the UK, he had been convicted of beating up one former female partner and was cautioned for assaulting another. He was also jailed in 2014 after he accidentally scalded a little girl with boiling hot water.
At Manchester Crown Court, Marella, a former customer services adviser from the city’s Northernden area, denied wrongdoing but was convicted of sexual assault after a trial.
He escaped with 26 weeks jail suspended for two years but Judge Manley told him: ‘You have begun to build a history of offending and the victims of your offending are always female.
‘All these offences have involved your exertion of power over someone who is clearly less powerful than yourself. Your victim in this case was a young woman working in the reception of the nursery where your children were cared for. You took advantage of her in her work place.
‘She is a petite and vulnerable woman and the effect this has had on her was clear to see. This offence does cross the custody threshold because of your previous convictions. This was the victim’s work place and she was vulnerable to a degree as she was much younger and smaller than you.
Judge Hilary Manley told him: ‘You have begun to build a history of offending and the victims of your offending are always female.
Marella has previous convictions for violence against two former partners and was jailed for scalding a little girl in 2014
Judge Hilary Manley told Marella ‘You have begun to build a history of offending and the victims of your offending are always female.
‘She has felt compelled to leave her place of work and the effect of this offence has been profound. You need to think very carefully before you show your intentions to females and I hope this has been a lesson to you.’
The incident occurred on October 2 2015 and prosecutor Gordon Hennell said: ‘The complainant was 21 at the time and was working in the reception of the nursery where the defendant had two children.
‘He was dropping his children off at nursery when he hugged her and put his hand on her back. He then lifted her clothing and began stroking her back underneath her clothing.
‘All these offences have involved your exertion of power over someone who is clearly less powerful than yourself’
‘The victim has had difficulty dealing with the incident and it has resulted in her leaving her job due to the stress. If a stranger approaches her she feels very nervous and apprehensive. She has been suffering with anxiety and depression.’
Marella had a previous conviction for battery in September 2000 and a caution for common assault in September 2011. He was jailed for two years in 2014 for child cruelty.
Mitigation defence lawyer Paul Bryning said: ‘This was only a very short lived offence which was impulsive and not pre-meditated. There is also a lack of previous sexual convictions in this case.
‘He has been married since 2009 and is mainly a house husband, taking care of his two children and is expecting a third child in October this year.
‘His previous convictions against females are more of a coincidence rather than design and I think it would be unfair for that to be held against him.
Marella was also ordered to sign the Sex Offender Register for five years and complete 100 hours of unpaid work. He must also pay a victim surcharge of £100