Three Armenians convicted of plotting to bomb a Turkish diplomat’s office were sentenced to terms of four to six years in federal prison camps Friday by a Los Angeles federal judge, who said she believed that they were “basically of good character” and not likely to engage in future terrorist acts.
The sentences were imposed by U.S. District Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer, despite an appeal by U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner that the convicted conspirators be sent to prison for up to 25 years as a warning that the United States will not be lenient on terrorist activity.
Rejecting the government’s proposed sentences as “too harsh,” Pfaelzer expressed her agreement with defense contentions that the actions of the defendants were the result of years of hostility between Armenians and Turks, focused around the Armenian genocide in the early 1900s, in which 1 1/2 million Armenians were killed.
“The case involves a really terrible tragedy,” Pfaelzer said. “I have no doubt the defendants are basically of good character and unlikely to repeat the acts. Nonetheless, it (the bombing) was methodically planned. It was not amateurish. I must incarcerate the defendants.”
Specifying that the three convicted Armenians be sentenced to federal prison camps in California, instead of federal prisons, Pfaelzer sentenced Viken Hovsepian, 24, of Santa Monica, the accused ringleader of the group, to a six- year term. She ordered a five-year sentence for Karnig Sarkissian, 31, of Anaheim and a four-year term for Steven Dadaian, 22, of Canoga Park.
A fourth defendant previously convicted in the bombing plot, Viken Yacoubian, 21, of Glendale, was granted an evidentiary hearing for a possible new trial after his defense attorney, Michael Lightfoot, argued that a government psychiatrist had not considered all available evidence in deciding that Yacoubian did not have a mental disorder during his involvement in the conspiracy.
Terree A. Bowers and Robert A. Pallemon, the assistant U.S. attorneys who prosecuted the case, had asked for tough sentences for all four defendants.
“There can be no question but that their bombing plot was a terrorist action, the defendants’ feeble protestations to the contrary notwithstanding,” they wrote in a pre-sentencing memo to the judge.
Across State Lines
The Armenians were found guilty by Pfaelzer last Oct. 9 of transporting explosives across state lines in a 1982 plot to blow up the Turkish consul general’s office in Philadelphia.
Pfaelzer said then that she was “impressed” with the backgrounds of the accused terrorists and indicated that she would give serious consideration to their pasts in determining their sentences.
The four Armenians were originally accused with Dikran Sarkis Berberian, 29, of Glendale of conspiring to transport five sticks of dynamite from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.
Berberian’s case was separated from the other defendants because of differences in defense strategy. His trial is pending before Chief U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real.