Sassounian Defense Says DA has Conflict of Interest

LOS ANGELES–Attorney Mark Geragos told the court Thursday–that he would file a motion in the Hampig Sassounian special circumstance retrial–contending that the District Attorney’s office has a conflict of interest in initiating the judicial process by which Sassounian’s eligibility for parole would be waived.

Judge Robert J. Perry agreed to hear argumen’s on the motion during a hearing scheduled to take place on December 19.

Geragos said the defense was seeking the DA’s internal memorandum on the decision to retry Hampig Sassounian’s special circumstance portion of the sentence–contending that Layle Rubin–who prosecuted the first trial was called as a witness in a 1993 evidentiary hearing–which focused on the false testimony of jailhouse informant Geoffery Busch.

Geragos said that Rubin was one of the officials at the district attorneys office who made the decision to retry the case and since she served as a witness during the aforementioned hearing there was a conflict of interest in the retrial decision making process.

The District Attorney’s office has refused to submit the memorandum for discovery to the defense.

During Thursday’s short hearing–prosecutor Gergory A. Dohi rejected the conflict of interest argument saying that the DA had no intention of calling Busch as a witness in the retrial–thus calling the defense motion "irrelevant."

Sassounian is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for allegedly murdering then Turkish Consul General to Los Angeles Kemal Arikan in 1982. The special circumstances–which made Sassounian ineligible for parole were linked to the jury’s decision that the crime was racially motivated. Last year–the 9th Federal Circuit Court ruled that the special circumstances may be waved since the jury in the initial trial had entertained matters that were not presented in court during the trial.

The courtroom was–once again–filled to capacity with Sassounian relatives and supporters–the majority of whom were the youth.

During an interview with Horizon Television following the previous hearing on Oct. 31–Dohi attempted to assure the Armenian-American community that the motivation of the DA’s office was not to single out the community by pursuing this matter.

"I want to make it very clear that the DA’s office means no disrespect to the Armenian Cause… We respect the Armenian Cause very deeply–however we’re doing simply what Gov. Deukmejian said when this happened 18 years ago–that we should seek the full measure of justice and that’s what we are doing," explained Dohi

Defense attorney Geragos said–however–"This prosecution is nothing less than a full frontal assault on the Armenian community," explaining that new material provided to him by the prosecution for discovery "is nothing more than attacks on the ANC–the ARF–the AYF and the Armenian community."

Geragos added–"Everything that’s in this case is nothing more than Turkish propaganda and revisionism and their ability to use this courtroom for political purposes."

He added that the prosecutors "have invoked the names of Deukmejian and [then District Attorney Robert] Philibosian as a cover for bringing this assault against the Armenian community."

The noted defense lawyer argued that–indeed–the District Attorney was motivated by the events of Sept. 11th and thus is mounting a case against the community.

"The first document I got in the discover is a piece of paper with a headline that reads ‘terrorism.’ If this is not linked to Sept. 11–then why does the first document have a banner that says ‘terrorism’?" explained Geragos.

"Why is the first witness [on the list] some bozo who is going to claim that the Armenian groups are nothing but a bunch of fringe groups?" commented Geragos.

"This is unconscionable. The Armenian community should not stand fort this," said Geragos–who urged those Armenian-Americans who had contributed to District Attorney Cooley’s election campaign to call the DA and file complaints–since Cooley himself had announced that he election was largely due to the support of the Armenian-American community.

The Los Angeles Country District Attorney’s office announced on Sept. 28 during a hearing at the Los Angeles County Criminal Court its intentions to retry the special circumstance portion of the Hampig Sassounian case–despite a ruling last year by the federal Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn that decision and provide parole eligibility for the defendant.

On November 1–Hampig Sassounian expressed his gratitude to the Armenian-American community for its continued solidarity with his case–during a live telephone interview Thursday on Horizon TV’s nightly newscast.

Sassounian conveyed his heartfelt gratitude to the community–which through letters–phone calls and attendance at events–has supported him during the two decades that he has been in prison.

"I am not the same person who entered prison at the age of 19. Right now I am 39 years old and have been able to endure this reality through the unwavering support of the community," Sassounian told the live television audience.

He explained that he passes his time by reading the Bible and the writings of Kirkor Naregatsi–which he said have multiplied his love for the Armenian people.

Sassounian said that his will has been strengthened through the countless letters and correspondence he has received–throughout the years–from supporters in Lebanon–Iran–Europe and the Americas. These letters have served as encouragement for Sassounian–who has been unjustly incarcerated for 20 years.

Sassounian expressed his gratitude not only to the Los Angeles Armenian community–but rather to Armenia’s throughout the world–who have supported his cause. He also exclaimed his satisfaction that a new generation of Armenia’s has fostered his cause and individuals who were not born when the 1982 events occurred were equally supportive as those who attended his trials and extended their solidarity.

"I dream of being united with our people and go to live in Armenia," said Sassounian–who urged the community to remain strong and be proud of their heritage as Armenia’s.

In closing he thanked Asbarez newspaper and Horizon Television for their continued assistance and support and urged the Armenian community to morally and financially support his case.

The Sassounian Defense Committee–which has been at the forefront of the community-wide effort to secure the needs of the defense urged the community to come together and assist the committee in ensuring a fair verdict from this retrial.

"Now–more than ever–we know we can count on the community to support our activities–and through that to send a clear signal to Hampig that the Armenian community continues to stand in solidarity with him," said Hasmig Derderian of SDC.

Individuals wishing to assist Sassounian in his defense of this politically motivated re-trial should send their contributions to The Sassounian Defense Committee (SDC) P.O. Box 5278–Pasadena–California–91117.


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