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Defense invokes 'Crash,' blaming chance encounter for man's death

April 27, 2009|Harriet Ryan

Inside the car, he said, Fischer "began screaming hysterically." Young said he lost his grip on the door handle as Jassy accelerated down the street and through a red light. But he noted the license plate and Jassy was arrested later that day at his West Hollywood apartment.

By that time, Osnes had been pronounced dead. A coroner's official testified that the kick or the resulting fall fractured Osnes' skull and the force of the SUV broke his ribs and damaged his liver when it ran over him. Either set of injuries would have been fatal, the pathologist said.

In court, Jassy bears little resemblance to the rapper who wore a tough stare and a hoodie on his MySpace page, which was taken down after the incident. Held on $1-million bond since his arrest, he looks pale and thin in his jail uniform. The handful of friends who come to support him at hearings no longer includes Fischer, whose profile on a modeling website indicates she now lives in London.

Jassy's lawyer, Donald Etra, has said his client is "devastated" by the death of Osnes, whom he called "a very good man." The lawyer has implied Jassy is open to a plea deal.

"If an early and fair resolution could be achieved, he would certainly consider it," Etra said.

At the preliminary hearing, the attorney said the facts of the case fit manslaughter rather than murder. Etra suggested Osnes bore some responsibility for what he called "a fight" and objected to the use of the term "victim." He noted that Osnes' blood-alcohol level was 0.10%, above the legal limit for driving, and implied that Jassy may have felt threatened by Osnes and later by Young.

In court papers, the lawyer wrote that Osnes' death fit the thesis of the film "Crash" -- "that random interactions of diverse people in a city as frenetic as Los Angeles can lead to disastrous consequences." He said the case begged a series of "what ifs," starting with, "What would have happened if Mr. Jassy and Mr. Osnes had not arrived on the same corner at the same time?"

The prosecutor, Sarika Kapoor, shot back: "The only 'what if' we are left with is: What if the defendant valued human life?"

Judge Darrell Mavis declined to reduce the charge to manslaughter.

Osnes' sister, Kris, bristled at the allusions to "Crash," which she said amounted to arguing that Jassy was "a victim of circumstance" and "the devil, the city of Los Angeles, made him do it."

"Framing it in this way does, on some level perhaps, distance, or even soften, what actually transpired," she wrote in an e-mail.

But while "actors get up and walk away after the cameras quit rolling," she wrote, her brother "never got up and walked away."

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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