Council wants to review jury award

GLENDALE — The City Council on Tuesday instructed city attorneys to review additional legal options after a federal appellate court affirmed a jury's decision this week to award $1.31 million to Edmond Ovasapyan, who was found to be wrongly detained for eight months as part of a murder investigation.

Ovasapyan's attorney, Mark Geragos, blasted the city's continued push back on the court decisions, calling it a waste of taxpayer dollars.

"They are just delaying the inevitable," he said.

Geragos said his legal team had offered a $250,000 pretrial settlement, and then later proposed a $400,000 agreement.

City attorneys took the $400,000 offer to City Council, but it was rejected because City Atty. Scott Howard said it had been proposed to them only days before trial was scheduled to start.

"The way the city of Glendale is acting with taxpayers' money makes the city of Bell look pristine," Geragos said.

The city's options include requesting a rehearing with the three-judge appeals court panel, a hearing with the entire U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals or making a bid to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, Howard said.

"We know going into this we are looking at an uphill battle," he said.

Ovasapyan was awarded the money in February 2009 after the jury determined that he had been wrongly locked up while the Los Angeles County district attorney's office decided whether to move forward with his case in the 2005 shooting death of a 21-year-old Glendale resident, Christopher Shahanzari.

At the time of the murder, police determined there was enough probable cause to arrest him, and turned their case over to the county district attorney's office, which decided to file murder charges.

He remained in county jail while awaiting a preliminary hearing.

Two police detectives eventually collected DNA evidence at the shooting that led to another suspect, who was identified by Shahanzari's mother as the alleged shooter. Those pieces of evidence eventually exonerated Ovasapyan.

On Monday, the appellate panel concluded that evidence showing that Glendale police officers lacked probable cause to arrest Ovasapyan was sufficient to support the federal jury's decision.

Howard said his staff expected the panel to engage in an in-depth analysis of the case given the issue and its background.

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