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D.A.'s office admits letting slaying suspect avoid prison

Ka Pasasouk, accused of killing four people, was on probation when officials urged he be sent to prison. But prosecutors decided he was eligible for a drug diversion program.

December 10, 2012|By Andrew Blankstein, Frank Shyong and Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times
  • Ka Pasasouk on a television monitor during his extradition hearing in a Las Vegas Justice Court last week.
Ka Pasasouk on a television monitor during his extradition hearing in a… (Julie Jacobson, Associated…)

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office admitted Monday that its prosecutors erred in allowing a suspect — now accused in the killing of four people in Northridge — to receive drug treatment instead of prison time during a September court hearing.

The suspect, Ka Pasasouk, was in Van Nuys Superior Court after being arrested on suspicion of drug possession. He was on probation at the time, and the L.A. County Probation Department had urged that he be sent back to state prison for "long-term detention" because of his lengthy criminal record.

But prosecutors told the judge that Pasasouk was eligible for a drug diversion program under Proposition 36. The judge ordered him to drug treatment rather than prison.

PHOTOS: Four killed in Northridge shooting

Two months later, authorities alleged, Pasasouk killed four people outside a home in Northridge.

The district attorney's office said it completed an investigation Monday into how that hearing was handled.

"The review shows that the office inadvertently erred in indicating the defendant was eligible for a Proposition 36 drug program," said district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons in a statement. "Training issues raised during the review will be addressed by the District Attorney's office countywide."

Gibbons would not comment further or say whether any prosecutors were being disciplined.

Pasasouk is accused of fatally shooting four people Dec. 1 outside a home in the 17400 block of Devonshire Street.

Officials identified the dead as Amanda Ghossein, 24, of Monterey Park; Jennifer Kim, 26, of Montebello; Robert Calabia, 34, of Los Angeles; and Teofilo Navales, 49, of Castaic.

Detectives have not revealed any information about a possible motive. But law enforcement sources told The Times that the killings appeared to have stemmed from a dispute over personal property, including a computer.

Proposition 36 was a voter-approved ballot measure meant to send some nonviolent drug offenders into drug rehab rather than prison.

Suspects with previous convictions for serious or violent offenses, such as robbery and assault, are not eligible unless they have avoided prison during the previous five years.

Pasasouk has an extensive and violent criminal record that included recent prison stints.

In 2010, he pleaded no contest to unlawful taking of a vehicle and was sentenced to three years in state prison. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and assault likely to produce great bodily injury and was sentenced to state prison. In 2004, he was convicted in two more cases also involving unlawful taking of a vehicle.

During the September hearing, Pasasouk pleaded no contest to possession of methamphetamine. The Probation Department argued in a report that he should be sent back to prison.

"The defendant is an ineligible and unsuitable candidate for continued community supervision," the probation report stated. "It is recommended that probation be denied and the defendant be sentenced to state prison."

In an interview last week, Reaver Bingham, Los Angeles County deputy chief of adult field services, said his department's recommendation was also based on his record and the fact that Pasasouk did not report to his probation officer in one instance before the September hearing.

Judge Jessica Silvers ordered Pasasouk to attend a drug treatment program and be released to the oversight of the Probation Department, according to court records and law enforcement officials.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

frank.shyong@latimes.com

jack.leonard@latimes.com

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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