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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Murder Verdict Urged in Slaying of Teen in Encino

March 17, 2000

VAN NUYS — Saying gang pride was the motive, a prosecutor urged a Superior Court jury Thursday to find Ari Tomasian guilty of the murder of a youth outside a teen party in Encino.

The closing arguments--replete with references to the Rampart police scandal--capped three weeks of testimony in the first-degree murder trial in the 1998 death of 17-year-old Abtin Tangestanifar.

As Tomasian attacked Tangestanifar outside the party, witnesses testified, they heard him shout "Jefrox," the name of a local gang. In a dramatic moment in the trial, Tomasian was asked to bare his back, exposing a large tattoo bearing the name of the multiethnic gang.

"That's who he is--he's Jefrox. That's why he's guilty of first-degree murder," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Darrell Mavis.

But defense attorney Melvyn Douglas Sacks told jurors that there is evidence that another youth, not Tomasian, wielded the murder weapon.

Tomasian, now 19, may have been affiliated with Jefrox, but he wasn't the killer, said Sacks, urging the jury of eight women and four men not to be swayed by "prejudice" against gang members.

Sacks invoked the Rampart scandal at least twice, asserting that it shows how sentiments against gang members could lead to mistaken convictions.

Judge Tricia A. Bigelow stopped Sacks, however, and after a conference with attorneys cautioned the jury to consider only the evidence presented during trial.

The case is expected to go to the jury today.

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