Glendale News Press, CA
Jan 4 2008

Not-guilty plea for Grigoryan

Man is charged with second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter and
felony hit-and-run.

By Jason Wells

PASADENA - Ara Grigoryan - the Glendale man accused in the July 10
hit-and-run death of 24-year-old pedestrian Elizabeth Sandoval -
pleaded not guilty Thursday to second-degree murder in Pasadena
Superior Court.

Grigoryan, handcuffed and wearing a blue county jail jumpsuit, also
pleaded not guilty during his arraignment to one count each of
vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run involving a death.

Before settling on the next pretrial date, Grigoryan's attorney, Fred
Minassian, assured the judge that he was engaged in active
discussions with the district attorney's office for a `possible
resolution to this case.'

Deputy District Atty. Robert Knowles confirmed that a plea agreement
is always a possibility, but said there was no offer on the table.

`There's been no actual discussion,' he said. advertisement

Grigoryan's arraignment comes more than six months after he was
arrested in Mexico City reportedly trying to board a flight to Spain
a week and a half after Sandoval was killed.

Grigoryan is accused of driving the black Mercedes-Benz S430 sedan
that struck and killed Sandoval at 9:40 p.m. as she and a friend
jaywalked across South Glendale Avenue just south of East Windsor

Witnesses for the prosecution at his preliminary hearing testified
that the sedan sped away from the scene after flinging Sandoval more
than 70 feet. She died at the scene.

After a massive manhunt, police found the Mercedes abandoned in Van
Nuys, with body work recently performed on its hood and grill. A few
days later, Grigoryan was found.

On Dec. 20, a Superior Court judge ruled that there was enough
evidence to pursue a second-degree murder charge against Grigoryan
for the hit-and-run death and sent the case to trial.

So far, prosecutors are taking an almost identical path set for
Andranik Atshemyan, who was convicted Dec. 14 on all three of the
charges that Grigoryan is facing. Atshemyan faces 23 years to life in
prison for slamming his Land Rover SUV into a parked Nissan car on
Columbus Avenue near Riverdale Drive in November 2005, killing one
teenager and seriously injuring another.

Prosecutors in that case used his high speed and poor driving record
to justify the murder charge, a tactic Grigoryan's defense must now
contend with.

Minassian said he intended to file a motion that would force Pasadena
Superior Court Judge Dorothy Shubin, who is presiding over the case,
to review the transcripts of Grigoryan's preliminary hearing to
affirm that the prosecution's evidence warranted the murder charge.

During Grigoryan's preliminary hearing, Minassian argued that skid
marks at the scene of the collision proved his client had braked and
swerved to avoid Sandoval, and so he should not be prosecuted for
having a wanton disregard for human life - an argument Knowles had
used to push for the murder charge.

After Grigoryan entered his pleas Thursday, Shubin scheduled a
pretrial hearing for Feb. 13, at which point attorneys will have 45
days to prepare for the opening arguments.