COURT WATCH: LA County Judge Rejects Defense Motions to Dismiss and Reduce Charges; Accused Jailed on Reduced ($150,000) Bail 

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By Perla Chavez

LANCASTER, CA —Judge Lowrie Mendoza denied Deputy Public Defender Shahane Hakobyan’s motions to dismiss based on insufficiency of evidence and reduce from a felony to a misdemeanor, despite the DPD’s multiple objections here Friday at a preliminary hearing at the Michael Antonovich Antelope Valley Los Angeles County Courthouse.

According to court records, as of January the accused was charged with evading a police officer, disregarding safety, and has one or more serious/violent felony convictions, including resisting an executive officer and being a driver under the influence with a combined alcohol and drug 15% BAC or refusing to take a chemical test.

The accused was also present for two other case hearings regarding probation violation.

A peace officer working for the California Highway Patrol testified he witnessed the accused driving a motorcycle recklessly on the opposing lane around midnight without headlights on, crossing double yellow lines to pass others, and conducting illegal turns.

The accused allegedly failed to yield after the police made a U-turn, turned their lights on and used their sirens in pursuit of the accused, the officer claimed.

While the officer was stating the accused did not yield to their lights and siren in an attempt to evade, DPD Hakobyan promptly objected it was speculation. Judge Mendoza overruled the DPD.

After claiming he followed the accused for approximately seven minutes, the accused eventually pulled onto the shoulder and dropped his bike, the officer testified.

Shortly after pulling in, the accused was placed into custody where the officer claimed to observe the accused yelling random things, talking to himself, smelling like alcohol, having constricted pupils that did not respond to light and a rigid muscle tone.

When Deputy District Attorney Alexandra Byrne Pisula asked the officer if what he identified could be indicative of other violations, DPD Hakobyan objected for lack of foundation, but again, Judge Mendoza overruled the objection.

The officer explained constricted pupils are a symptom of alcohol and drugs and the rigid muscle tone is identified with drugs.

The accused allegedly refused to do a sobriety test but after the officer obtained a signed copy of the warrant, the accused was taken to the hospital for his blood to be taken. Two other officers assisted in holding down the accused because he allegedly refused to provide a sample and had to be restrained.

The accused also allegedly attempted to headbutt the testifying officer and the partner, Officer Michael Carter, and kicked Officer Kenny Martinez off of him.

The officer spoke about their conversation with the Senior Criminalist Manuel Garza at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Station and his qualifications. When the officer was asked what Garza said was in the blood by DDA Pisula, DPD Hakobyan made a hearsay objection that the judge, again, overruled.

DPD Hakobyan continued objecting under the grounds of lack of foundation and assumption of facts not in evidence. And Judge Mendoza sustained those.

During cross-examination of the witness officer, DPD Hakobyan asked the officer if he provided a true and accurate report of the incident, to which he responded yes.

DPD Hakobyan noted the police report did not include Martinez stumbling from the kick, their trip to the hospital for an emergency medical response when the accused was detained and was foaming at the mouth and hyperventilating.

The officer admitted he did not verify the identity of Manuel Garza by employee number or credentials when listing his qualifications for DPD Hakobyan.

When DPD Hakobyan asked about what the officer knew about the blood test conducted on the accused, the officer said they assumed the test was designed to test for narcotics. DPD Hakobyan noted the officers’ speculation to the court’s attention.

DPD Hakobyan made a motion to dismiss based on insufficient evidence and another motion to reduce charges to a misdemeanor. Judge Mendoza explained the accused’s record is extensive and was on probation when committing these violations, denying both motions.

Judge Mendoza noted bail was $375,000. However, DPD Hakobyan stated that, after arraignment in June 2023, the accused was acquitted by jury for the charges on another case of assault with deadly weapon, not a firearm and vandalism and was wondering if that was brought to the judge’s attention when deciding bail.

DPD Hakobyan added there have been felony convictions removed, with the last one being in 2014. DPD also informed the court that the accused has a sister that is willing to put him into a solid treatment program if he could be under GPS monitoring or house arrest.

Judge Mendoza said there are felony convictions under his name from 2019 and 2017 among others. DDA Pisula stated the accused has had six prior felony convictions, nine misdemeanors, 17  prior bench warrants and two prior arrest warrants.

Judge Mendoza admitted she was concerned with criminal conduct of the accused while on two grants of probation. Moreover, Mendoza argued reckless driving at night makes the accused a danger to himself and the public.

Additionally, with the nature of the offense being evading a police officer and the accused’s history of not appearing in court, the judge expressed concern about the accused’s commitment to complying with legal obligations.

Judge Mendoza reduced the accused’s bail to $150,000 on the grounds he was not appropriately charged in the acquittal of two prior charges.

The probation violation hearings for his other two cases being heard were scheduled for June 21, in the Michael Antonovich Antelope Valley Los Angeles County Courthouse.

DPD Hakobyan mentioned the accused would like to begin the START program to show the court his commitment to completing the course successfully.

However, DDA Pisula stated it would be wasting resources on the START program since he was initially given the option and refused the opportunity.

Judge Mendoza said even if the accused went through the START program that does not guarantee a better offer. But the accused may do so for his own benefit.

The accused was committed to the custody of LA County Sheriff Station.

About The Author

Perla Chavez is a first-generation college student that has obtained a paralegal certificate from the UCLA Extension Paralegal Program. Her academic journey includes a major in Political Science with a focus on race, ethnicity, and politics at UCLA. Perla has actively contributed to social justice advocacy through internships with CHIRLA and the NAACP. Driven by her passion to recognize inequalities and advocate for the rights of others, Perla aspires to become an immigration lawyer. Apart from her dedication to academics and the legal field, she finds fulfillment in being a volunteer for the city of California City, spending quality time with family, and expressing creativity through painting.

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