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Accomplice Sentenced to Life for Fatal Robbery at Denny’s

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A man was sentenced to life in prison Monday for helping kill a Denny’s restaurant manager, leaving his widow threatened with deportation because the marriage did not last long enough.

“They both got sentenced to what they deserved,” said Jasmine Salehi, whose husband, Cyrus, was fatally shot last year in Reseda during a robbery despite handing over cash.

“But at this point it doesn’t make any difference to me. My husband is no longer with me.”

Salehi, a South Korean national who lives in Sherman Oaks with the support of relatives and friends, said she was too busy concentrating on the trial of her husband’s killers to contemplate her fate with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

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INS officials had said they would allow Salehi to stay in the country only until the prosecution of her husband’s killers was completed. They sought to deport her because her 1995 marriage to Cyrus Salehi, a United States citizen, ended short of the two-year requirement to achieve legal status.

But on Monday, Susan Kennedy, a spokeswoman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), said Salehi no longer faces such tight requirements.

Kennedy said INS Commissioner Doris Meissner has given her assurances that Salehi, 32, will be allowed to remain in the country while Feinstein pursues legislation to grant her legal status.

In Los Angeles County Superior Court, Judge Darlene Schempp on Monday sentenced the getaway driver, Samuel Martinez, 19, to life without parole after a jury convicted him on murder and robbery charges.

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The trigger man and co-defendant, 20-year-old Ruben Lopez, also has been sentenced to life without parole.

Cyrus Salehi was gunned down in February 1996 after Lopez burst into the Reseda restaurant with a gun and demanded cash. Salehi complied by handing over $400 from the cash register but was fatally shot in the chest.

Earlier this year, Feinstein and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) sponsored special legislation to allow the widow to remain in the United States.

Kennedy said Feinstein did not anticipate any problems passing the bill but hoped the issue would be resolved by INS officials through administrative channels.

“Congress considers private bills to assist individuals with extraordinary cases,” Kennedy said. “If ever there were a case where compassion were called for, this is it.”

In a telephone interview Monday, Salehi said all she can do is wait.


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