A Los Angeles architect was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in prison for killing his then-girlfriend's madam in her Studio City luxury apartment in 2000.
Despite pleas for leniency from prominent architects and other friends of the defendant, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp ordered Alexander Gabay, 38, of Los Angeles to serve the mandatory prison term.
''I wish I had discretion to exercise leniency,'' Schempp said.
In January, a Van Nuys jury convicted Gabay of second-degree murder in the Aug. 17, 2000, beating and shooting death of Lyudmyla Petushenko, 29.
Both sides agree that Petushenko, a prostitute, and Gabay's 23-year-old girlfriend, Oxana Meshkova, had argued in Petushenko's bedroom before she was killed.
At trial, Gabay, a former Navy Seabee, denied shooting Petushenko. He testified that Meshkova used his gun to fire the fatal shot.
But on the witness stand, Meshkova, once Gabay's co-defendant, accused her former boyfriend of intervening in the argument and killing Petushenko. Meshkova had initially been charged with murder, but prosecutors dropped the case against her.
Deputy Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jane Winston said Gabay was trying to steal information from Petushenko to open his own prostitution ring. And there was another motive, she said: ''Petushenko was trying to sell [Meshkova] into prostitution."
Meshkova owed Petushenko $3,000 for transportation to the United States. Petushenko might have sold her to a pimp to recover her costs, Winston said.
Two of the six women who entered the United States with Meshkova were sold to a pimp named Garrick, court records show.
Defense attorney Ronald D. Hedding said Gabay was trying to help Meshkova, who didn't speak English and had no friends or family in Southern California. ''You have a man who was trying to help a woman out,'' Hedding said.
Meshkova met Gabay at a party a few days after her July 4, 2000, entry into the United States. Within days she had moved into Gabay's downtown L.A. loft and refused to work as a prostitute for Petushenko.
At trial, a witness who drove the couple to Studio City on the day of the killing testified that Gabay told him he had shot Petushenko, Winston said. The witness testified he saw Gabay melt part of the murder weapon. Authorities also found blood on Gabay's shoe that matched Petushenko's DNA, Winston said.