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WIFE BEATER COULD GET LIFE FOR TORTURE.

Byline: Anne Burke Daily News Staff Writer

In an unusually severe case of spousal abuse, a Van Nuys man was convicted of torture and could receive a life prison term when he is sentenced today.

First-time felony spousal abusers often get a year in jail and three years' probation, but Andranik Arabyan, 23, is scheduled to appear in Van Nuys Superior Court to face a possible life sentence after being convicted last month of torture, four counts of spousal abuse and two special allegations of great bodily injury.

``I think this really sends a message to the community that spousal abuse is taken very, very seriously in this county,'' said Arabyan's prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Turkat.

His attorney, Michael Levin, conceded that his client ``is not the type of person you would want for your boyfriend.'' But he said Arabyan's no torturer.

``Torture - as it's used in the law - is a very extreme, outrageous type of crime,'' Levin said.

The defense attorney said the torture statute was enacted in California in 1990 in response to a case much worse than that of his client. That case involved Larry Singleton, who raped a teen-aged girl, then hacked off her forearms with an ax.

But Turkat said Arabyan's crimes were outrageous enough to justify a torture charge.

She said he had been abusing his wife, Marine Harutynan, since 1994, when she was three months pregnant and he pushed her from behind so hard that she fell on her stomach.

The abuse became progressively worse, Turkat said. Arabyan often punched his wife's head above the hairline so the bruises could not be seen, and burned her on the face with a cigarette, the prosecutor said.

On one occasion, he exploded in violence because the ``spaghetti wasn't on the plate right,'' Turkat said.

Levin said his client was drunk and stoned during the worst of the incidents, and that he never had sadistic intent.

Harutynan, now 19, was a field-hockey player in her native Armenia and met her husband in 1993 when she came to the United States to compete, Turkat said.

What prompted the torture charge occurred in May 1996 in the bathroom of the Van Nuys home Harutynan shared with her husband and his parents.

Turkat said Harutynan was held captive there overnight. During that time, Arabyan bound his wife's hands and feet, burned her wrists with a cigarette, then poured nail-polish remover on the wounds and urinated on her head, the prosecutor said.

Domestic violence experts say what happened to Harutynan is not at all unusual. What is unusual is that prosecutors and the jury viewed it as torture - something that conjures images of brutal dictators rather than husbands and wives in middle-class neighborhoods.

``The sadistic and torturous nature of domestic violence is not something that's always fully recognized,'' said Gail Pincus, director of the Northridge-based Domestic Abuse Center.

In Los Angeles County, torture charges are not often seen in spousal-abuse cases, but they're becoming more common, said Donna Wills, head of the district attorney's family violence division.

``What is significant about this verdict is that it recognizes that there is home-grown torture as cruel and inhumane as anything you read about in foreign countries,'' she said.

Arabyan has been in jail since his arrest. If he is sentenced to life, he will have to spend about nine and a half years behind bars before being eligible for parole.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 1, 1997
Words:569
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