Man sentenced in fatal hit-run

GLENDALE — A Glendale man was sentenced to 15 years to life Wednesday for the 2005 hit-and-run murder of a Burbank teenager who was sitting in a parked car on Columbus Avenue.

Andranik Atshemyan, 25, will also serve nine years concurrently for two felony counts of hit-and-run causing great bodily injury, authorities said.

Pasadena Superior Court Judge Dorothy Shubin handed down the sentence Wednesday nearly three months after a jury convicted Atshemyan on all three counts in the November 2005 crash that killed Burbank resident Oscar Torres, 18, and seriously injured his friend, Jason Papricio, who was 17 at the time.

“Justice was definitely served,” said Glendale Police Det. Kevin Hirano, the lead officer on the case.

Atshemyan’s attorney, Mark Geragos, has criticized the “all-or-nothing” charges the jury was presented with, calling the trial “deeply flawed.”

With no drugs or alcohol involved, he argued jurors should have been given the choice of vehicular manslaughter.

Geragos could not be reached for comment Thursday, and it was unclear if he would appeal the sentence.

Atshemyan was convicted on Dec. 14 of slamming his Land Rover SUV into Torres’ parked Nissan 240SX at 9:40 p.m. on Nov. 19, 2005, on Columbus Avenue near Riverdale Drive.

Prosecutors said Atshemyan was driving between 65 and 75 mph on Columbus before veering into Torres, and that he had sped through three stop signs and narrowly missed hitting another car.

Torres died from his injuries three days later. Papricio, also from Burbank, spent two weeks in a coma before recovering.

Atshemyan fled the scene on foot after the crash, and wasn’t found until Canadian customs officials apprehended him three days later as he tried to cross the border.

The case draws some comparisons to the upcoming murder trial for Ara Grigoryan, 20, who faces similar charges in the July 10 hit-and-run death of 24-year-old Elizabeth Sandoval on South Glendale Avenue.

Immigration authorities apprehended Grigoryan about a week after the incident as he reportedly tried to board a Mexico City flight to Spain, although his attorney has disputed that account.

Glendale Police have declined to comment on specific similarities between the two cases, but in pretrial hearings for Grigoryan, county prosecutors emulated the arguments Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Kraut used to pursue the second-degree murder charge against Atshemyan — especially in focusing on poor driving records to show a history of disregard for pedestrian safety.

Kraut used Atshemyan’s three speeding citations, a minor-injury accident and completion of traffic school to establish a reckless disregard for human life to support the murder charge, while Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Knowles in December pointed to Grigoryan’s seven traffic citations and traffic school instruction on “motor vehicle as loaded weapon” to argue his pretrial case.

Attorneys in the Grigoryan trial meet Tuesday for another pretrial hearing.

On Thursday, Torres’ mother, Martha, said she was satisfied with the sentence, even if it was an accident.

“If you make a mistake, you pay for it,” she said.

This week, Martha Torres said the usual Sunday visit to her son’s grave would be quite different: “I get to go to my son’s grave to say, ‘You know what? Justice was served.’”


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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