Hampig Hearing Deemed ‘Step in Right Direction’

LOS ANGELES–In what was deemed as a "Step in the right direction," by defense attorney Mark Geragos–a hearing on the retrial of the special circumstance in the Hampig Sassounian case was held Wednesday at the Criminal Courts building.

The brunt of Wednesday’s hearing focused on a discussion regarding inherent problems in the prosecution’s case for segregating the special circumstance portion from the underlying case.

Judge Robert J. Perry scheduled further hearing on the matter of the special circumstances for January 30–however acknowledging that there were issues would have to be resolved before the prosecution’s case can go forward.

"We’re coming back in January. Hopefully–we’ll get a part of this case dismissed at that point. I’m hopeful that by the 30th–half of this case will be dismissed," said an optimistic Geragos–who pointed the finger at the Los Angeles Country District Attorney Steve Cooley for unnecessarily dredging up a 20-year-old case

Judge Perry also ruled that the prosecution was under no responsibility to explain to the defense or the court its reasoning for bringing forth the retrial motion.

"Steve Cooley is doing nothing but embracing the genocide deniers and the Turkish propaganda types and will be able to see it for what it is and will put right to them," remarked Geragos.

The noted defense attorney explained that the court was not going to easily embrace the prosecution’s reasoning for the retrial

"In fact–the court was pretty adamant that it was not going to do that. The court has also invited them to rethink this. That was the last they said. I think that if we could ever get a prosecutor here who wasn’t biased and wasn’t interested in assaulting the Armenian community–somebody would drop this case and they will let Harry out the door immediately. Unfortunately–we don’t have that yet but we’re making steps in the right direction," argued Geragos

"They plan on bringing and making this a trial–if you will–of the ARF and the AYF and do a full frontal assault and talk about those organizations. They refer to these organizations as Armenian fringe organizations. Our feeling is we’re going to have to awaken them up to whether or not these are fringe organizations or mainstream organizations," explained Geragos.

"The Armenian community needs to step up and let this guy know that they’re not going to get away with what I believe is insulting or racist kinds of commen’s," advised Geragos.

The opposing side has embraced the Assembly of American-Turkish Propaganda Group: the ones out there talking about how the genocide never took place. Their very first document in discovery was stuff produced by them. So this whole thing is nothing but the Turks as a prosecution by proxy that’s organized by the Turks and they should be ashamed of themselves," added Geragos.

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 a hearing on Oct. 31–prosecutor Gregory 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."

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.

"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.

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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