Famed Lawyers Defending Youths in Slaying


These are not the lawyers one typically sees in Juvenile Court. But then, neither are the defendants.

In their efforts to defeat murder charges, the parents of half a dozen mostly private school teenagers have hired a group of private attorneys, including high-powered celebrity lawyer Robert Shapiro, Death Row Records attorney David Kenner and well-known defense lawyer Jill Lansing, who represented Lyle Menendez at his first trial.

Shapiro and Kenner have been in Sylmar Juvenile Court all week, arguing that two of the teenagers--Michael Aintablian and Sayat Oruncakciel--charged with the slaying of a 17-year-old at a million-dollar Encino home, were not involved in the death.

Kenner said the four other suspects implicate one another--but not the first two.


Shapiro and Kenner have been trying to get the charges against Aintablian and Oruncakciel dropped. That effort failed when Juvenile Court Judge Morton Rochman ruled that the state has a case against them.

The two attorneys have called friends, psychologists and a former principal to testify on Aintablian and Oruncakciel’s behalf and submitted letters vouching for their character in a bid to get them released from Sylmar Juvenile Hall on bail.

Abtin Tangestanifar, a Taft High School student, was stabbed 11 times during the attack at a “sweet 16" birthday party in Encino on May 31, Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven R. Belis said.

Arrested and charged with assault and premeditated murder were Ari Tomasian, Dikran Tchakirian, Pete Makhdomian, Aram Oknaian, Aintablian and Oruncakciel. Prosecutors are seeking to have them tried as adults. Police said Tomasian, Makhdomian, and Tachkirian are associated with a gang of Asian and Armenian members.


Belis said the attack began after Tomasian, a member of the Jef Rox gang, told his friends that “some Persian guy"--a friend of Tangestanifar who reportedly was drunk--was causing problems at the party.

Police said Tangestanifar and another teenager were escorting their drunk friend out of the party when a fight started. Witnesses have not said who stabbed Tangestanifar, police said.