An admitted gang member pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing a 17-year-old youth four years ago outside a Glendale high school in an attack prosecutors said was gang-related.
Karen Terteryan, 21, was sentenced Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court to 23 years and eight months in prison on single counts of voluntary manslaughter and street terrorism, according to the district attorney's office.
Terteryan admitted stabbing Raul Aguirre during a fight that broke out between a small group of Latinos and Armenians on May 5, 2000, outside Hoover High School. As part of his plea agreement, Terteryan said the crime was committed to further a street gang.
Officials said Aguirre, who was not a gang member, tried to intervene in defense of a friend and alleged gang member, Jimmy Orozco, in the deadly fight.
Aguirre, just days shy of his 18th birthday, would have graduated the following month.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Darrell Mavis said the plea bargain was reached in accordance with the wishes of the Aguirre family. "We wanted [Terteryan] to acknowledge guilt in the killing and he did that," Mavis said.
"The plea agreement reflects what we've said all along -- this was not a murder," said Shepard Kopp, Terteryan's lawyer. "It was a dispute that turned into a physical fight that was caused by ethnic tension."
Terteryan, Anait Msryan and Rafael Gevorgyan, all under the age of 18 at the time, were arrested shortly after the attack. All were charged as adults.
Gevorgyan said the three were sitting in a car outside Hoover High when Orozco yelled ethnic slurs and began flashing gang signs. Terteryan and Gevorgyan began fighting with Orozco, who was not seriously injured.
Msryan, 14 at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty last year to attempted murder. As part of a plea agreement, she will serve her seven-year term in the California Youth Authority.
A jury last year found Terteryan and Gevorgyan guilty of assault with a deadly weapon but deadlocked on murder charges. A retrial was scheduled for both.
Following Terteryan's plea, the district attorney's office dropped the murder charges against Gevorgyan, 19. He faces one count of manslaughter in the retrial set to begin Monday.
Andrew Flier, who represents Gevorgyan, said his client did not intend to strike a similar deal. "Just like the victim went to the aid of someone, that's what my client did," he said.
Gevorgyan testified that he had a tire iron during the fight but did not use it. He said he was unaware Terteryan had a knife.
Mavis maintains that Gevorgyan hit Aguirre with the tire iron and said evidence would show he aided and abetted Terteryan in the killing.