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California Briefing / Glendale

Man falsely accused of murder gets $1.3 million

February 26, 2009|Andrew Blankstein

A federal jury Wednesday awarded almost $1.3 million in civil damages to a Glendale man who was falsely accused of murder and spent eight months in a Los Angeles County jail before being cleared of the charges.

Attorneys for Edmond Ovasapyan, 28, sued the Glendale Police Department in U.S. District Court for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, saying that detectives who arrested him in connection with a 2005 home invasion slaying ignored exculpatory evidence, including his alibi.

The decision by the jury means Ovasapyan will receive $1.1 million in compensatory damages. They also found Det. Arthur Frank and Lt. Ian Grimes liable for $150,000 in punitive damages.

"I thought this was never going to happen; I thought I was going to be in jail for the rest of my life," Ovasapyan said outside the courtroom. "Justice prevailed."

Ovasapyan's arrest stemmed from a reported shooting Nov. 1, 2005, in the 1300 block of Bruce Street in Glendale. Police said three suspects were physically assaulting a woman when her son Christopher Shahnazari, 21, came home and tried to intervene.

Shahnazari was shot and later died at a hospital. Ovasapyan was arrested the next day and charged with murder with special circumstances of robbery and financial gain that could have made him subject to the death penalty.

Attorney Mark Geragos, who handled Ovasapyan's criminal case and was a witness at the civil trial, presented evidence including phone records that helped corroborate that Ovasapyan had been at lunch with his cousin at the time of the slaying.

-- Andrew Blankstein

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