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D.A.: GANG ATTACK LED TO KILLING DEFENSE ARGUES INCIDENT JUST A FIGHT, NOT A MURDER.

Byline: Naush Boghossian Staff Writer

GLENDALE - Two men on trial for the death of 17-year-old Hoover High student should be sent to prison because they intended to kill during the fatal melee to further the interest of a street gang, prosecutors said during closing arguments Friday.

``This is a classic case of a gang attack,'' said Deputy District Attorney Darrell Mavis. ``Beyond a reasonable doubt, these defendants are guilty of the murder of Raul Aguirre.''

But defense attorney Mark Geragos argued that the case was about a schoolyard fight between Armenians and Latino kids that unfortunately ended in tragedy.

``(Defendant Karen Terteryan) is a kid who was 17 years old, who has come across someone yelling racial epithets,'' Geragos said. ``He gets upset and jumps out of the car.''

Karen Terteryan, now 21, and Rafael Gevorgyan, 18, are charged with murder, attempted murder and street terrorism in the May 5, 2000, death of Hoover High School senior Raul Aguirre, who was beaten and stabbed when he intervened in the fight to help a friend.

If convicted, Terteryan faces life in prison without parole, and Gevorgyan faces a possible term of 25 years to life.

Mavis reiterated to jurors that both Terteryan and Gevorgyan were ``participants'' in an Armenian street gang, citing the testimony of a witness who saw both defendants exchanging gang signs with Jimmy Orozco, a member of a Latino gang. The motive for the fight, he said, was to kill a rival gang member.

The prosecution has claimed that Terteryan stabbed Aguirre four times and Gevorgyan hit him twice on the head. Mavis said Gevorgyan's testimony Thursday that he brandished a tire iron to scare off the group of Latinos who had surrounded Terteryan but never swung it at anybody was ``patently absurd.''

Even though Gevorgyan's alleged blows did not result in Aguirre's death, Mavis said he should also be charged with murder.

``An aider and abetter is just as guilty as a killer,'' Mavis said.

Mavis questioned the defense's theory that the boys acted in self-defense by reminding jurors witnesses saw Terteryan stab Aguirre in downward stabbing motions.

``The stab wounds occurred in the killing zone,'' Mavis said. ``They were intended to kill Aguirre.''

But defense attorney Mark Geragos, who's representing Terteryan, argued that Mavis glossed over the coroner's testimony that the stabs could have come from below.

``The problem is both doctors told you it's upward and side to side,'' Geragos demonstrated to the jury. An upward motion would corroborate the defense's claim that Aguirre was on top of Terteryan and was beating him, forcing Terteryan to defend himself with the knife.

Geragos emphasized that according to Orozco - the prosecution's witness - Terteryan put away the knife he had swung around when he first ran to the boys who had been taunting him, ``to fight like a man.''

``If there was an intent to commit murder, why would my client promptly put the knife into his pocket?'' Geragos asked. ``It's obvious that my client had intent to do nothing more than to get into a fight - to confront. My client was on the ground, and he's having the holy sin beat out of him.''

Citing witness testimony, Geragos maintained that Terteryan tried to flee from the fight but was chased by Aguirre, was pushed into a tree and was beaten up.

A 17-year-old girl, Anait Ano Msryan, who was also initially charged with the murder, testified for the prosecution. She pleaded guilty to attempted murder in exchange for a seven-year sentence at the Criminal Youth Authority. Her sentencing is scheduled for Monday.

Andrew Flier, Gevorgyan's attorney, is expected to give his closing arguments Monday.

Naush Boghossian, (818) 546-3306

naush.boghossian(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 25, 2003
Words:616
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