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Local News in Brief : Man Faces Felony Trial in Crash That Killed 3

A 22-year-old Los Angeles man must stand trial on felony vehicular manslaughter charges in a traffic accident that killed an 11-month-old baby and his grandparents, a Van Nuys Municipal Court judge ruled Monday.

Several witnesses testified at a preliminary hearing that the defendant, Gregory Masterson Michael, was driving at speeds up to 60 m.p.h. last October when he ran a red light and hit the car in which the victims were riding.

Benjamin Rochel, 84, of Beverly Hills; his wife, Ashraf, 71, and their grandson, Jonathan Rochel, died in the accident at Victory Boulevard and White Oak Avenue in Reseda.

The baby’s mother, Fereshteh Rochel, 27, of Reseda, testified that she was driving the car and that her son and in-laws were riding in the back seat when the accident occurred. She said her car was hit as she was trying to make a left turn from White Oak Avenue onto Victory Boulevard.

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Michael’s attorney, James M. Epstein, admitted that his client caused the accident, but said Michael should have been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter because the prosecution had failed to prove gross negligence as required for felony charges.

However, Judge Beauford H. Phelps agreed with the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Phillip H. Rabichow, that Michael should face the three felony counts. Michael must enter a plea to the charges March 20. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to six years in prison on each of the three counts.


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