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Glendale will pay man who was wrongly detained in murder probe

The $1.7-million settlement with Edmond Ovasapyan ends a long-standing lawsuit against the city. The Sunland man had been jailed in connection with the 2005 shooting death of Christopher Shahnazari.

January 18, 2011|By Melanie Hicken, Los Angeles Times

Glendale will pay $1.7 million to a man who was wrongly detained for eight months as part of a murder investigation, city officials said Monday.

The settlement with Edmond Ovasapyan, which was finalized Friday, ends a long-standing lawsuit against the city and includes a $1.31-million judgment awarded by a jury and most of the legal fees he incurred.

"We would have obviously wanted a different outcome," City Atty. Scott Howard said. "The matter is now concluded and everyone hopes we can move on."

A jury in February determined that Ovasapyan of Sunland had been wrongly imprisoned for eight months while the Los Angeles County district attorney's office decided whether to file charges against him in the 2005 shooting death of Glendale resident Christopher Shahnazari, 21.

Ovasapyan's attorney, Mark Geragos, has criticized the city for drawing out the case, pointing out that the City Council previously rejected a $400,000 settlement offer. Howard has said the proposal came only days before the trial was scheduled to start.

Geragos could not be reached for comment Monday.

City attorneys in June appealed the jury's verdict to the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but in December a three-judge panel upheld the $1.31-million judgment.

Howard said city officials had expected a more thorough review of the case by the appeals court.

"I would have hoped the court of appeal would have determined that the fact was, the officers had probable cause," he said. "The 9th Circuit really didn't pay much attention, in my opinion."

At the time of the slaying, police determined there was enough probable cause to arrest Ovasapyan and forwarded the case to the district attorney's office, which filed murder charges.

Ovasapyan remained in county jail while awaiting a preliminary hearing. During that time, two police detectives collected DNA evidence that led to another suspect and eventually exonerated Ovasapyan.

Howard said the city was up against a case in which the district attorney's office was immune from being held financially liable.

"Perhaps emotion got in the way," he said. "But from Day One, we always felt the officers did the best they could to try to exonerate this guy."

The settlement will be paid from the city's liability insurance fund.

melanie.hicken@latimes.com

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