A Los Feliz man whose 1989 arrest in a fatal drunk driving accident led to tougher county review procedures for traffic schools pleaded no contest Tuesday to gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol.
The plea agreement by Harry Bouboushian, 36, was approved by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William R. Pounders, who said he will hand down the minimum sentence of four years in prison on Oct. 2. Under the agreement, the district attorney's office will drop two murder counts, for which Bouboushian could have received a life sentence.
Defense attorney Richard A. Moss said Bouboushian, who has two young sons, did not want to risk a lengthy sentence if the case went to trial.
The crash occurred three days after Bouboushian had received a certificate from the Driver Safety Schools center in Van Nuys showing that he had finished a one-year treatment program after a previous drunk driving conviction. But police said the school's records indicated Bouboushian had received the certificate before completing the program.
The incident prompted county health officials to close the school while looking into allegations that it issued falsified certificates. Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeffrey Oscodar said no criminal charges were filed against the school because of insufficient evidence.
But as a result of the Bouboushian case, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors established a seven-member board to review more closely drunk-driver treatment programs.
The earlier murder charges stemmed from the crash of Bouboushian's black BMW on July 16, 1989, on Los Feliz Boulevard. Police said that Bouboushian was driving at more than 100 m.p.h., with seven passengers aboard, when his car went out of control west of Vermont Avenue.
Bouboushian's wife, Armine Karapetian, 30, was killed, and one of the other passengers, Arthur Bezekian, 14, died several weeks later from his injuries. Three other passengers were seriously injured.
Bouboushian's blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.15% nearly double the current limit. Bouboushian had two previous drunken driving convictions and six outstanding speeding tickets.
Bouboushian, the owner of an Inglewood body shop, has insisted that his wife was behind the wheel when the crash occurred. Oscodar said he accepted the plea agreement partly because "there were significant problems in proving who was driving."
The prosecutor also said he did not believe Bouboushian deserved the 30-years-to-life prison term that a murder conviction could have brought.