Judge allows new interpreter for Grigoryan

PASADENA — Superior Court Judge Dorothy Shubin agreed Tuesday to order an interpreter specialized in the Russian-Armenian language for Ara Grigoryan, who is charged with the 2007 hit-and-run death of 24-year-old Elizabeth Sandoval.

Since Grigoryan’s case began last year, three court-appointed Russian-Armenian interpreters have interpreted court proceedings for Grigoryan and they were fully proficient in the Russian-Armenian language, his attorney Christopher Pfau said.

But a fourth interpreter who didn’t fully understand Grigoryan’s dialect was appointed by the court to interpret court proceedings for Grigoryan at two hearings, Pfau said.

The interpreter admitted he could not fully understand Grigoryan, so Pfau requested the court find a new Russian-Armenian interpreter for his client. The next interpreter may be one of the first three to work at Grigoryan’s hearings or a new person.

If Pfau had gone forward with Tuesday’s scheduled bail reduction hearing, he said, he would have jeopardized his client’s case.

Shubin said she would order an interpreter for the next hearing on Jan. 8, but couldn’t guarantee that person would appear for the hearing until the actual court date.

Russian-Armenian interpreters have gone to four hearings in Grigoryan’s case, said Allan Parachini, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokesman. The court has interpreters proficient in Armenian and Russian languages who are commonly requested in Glendale, he said.

Armenian language interpreters have been the second-most requested in Los Angeles County, Parachini said.

Grigoryan, 20, was arrested July 18 in Mexico City after allegedly hitting Sandoval on July 10 with his mother’s Mercedes-Benz as she jaywalked across South Glendale Avenue just south of East Windsor Road. Grigoryan is charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. All three are felonies.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Casey Higgins has offered Grigoryan a plea deal of 12 years in prison, but Grigoryan has not accepted the offer. If convicted, he could face 15 years to life in prison, said Jane Robison, a Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman.

Grigoryan’s case has been delayed nearly every month this year due to witness availability and technical troubles with some files containing witness testimony. But Grigoryan’s attorney also caused delays in the case because he said he had to address personal matters.

Pfau told Shubin on Tuesday that he was fully prepared to go forward and argue during a bail reduction hearing that Grigoryan’s bail should be set.

“My client has been held without bail for approximately 18 months,” Pfau said.

But Sandoval’s father, Guadalupe Sandoval, wants the case to be settled quickly and is frustrated about the delays.

“The attorney is taking too long,” he said. “I don’t understand why they don’t pressure him to get the case going.”

Grigoryan is scheduled to appear Jan. 8 for a bail reduction and pretrial hearing, where a Glendale police officer is expected to testify about what transpired in Mexico, Shubin said.

 VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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