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Duct tape, stun gun, ransom

Trial: Witness tells strange tale of alleged kidnapping and torture; judge orders case to continue

Posted: September 27, 2010 10:41 p.m.
Updated: September 28, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

SAN FERNANDO — A Castaic tow-truck driver already facing several criminal charges including kidnapping was charged Monday with witness intimidation and ordered to stand trial next month.

Armik Sohrabian, 44, of Johnson Road, his short gray hair combed neatly to one side, was led into San Fernando Superior Court wearing blue “LA County Jail” coveralls, his hands handcuffed in front of him.

When he spotted his wife, Adrina, in the courtroom, he smiled and took a seat beside high-profile defense lawyer Mark J. Geragos.

It was the first day of his preliminary hearing, held to determine whether or not he should go to trial.

After a day of listening to Armenian interpreters translate for a man who says he was tied up and held for ransom at a Castaic house one day in June, Superior Court Judge Dalila C. Lyons said she found sufficient evidence to order a trial.

Sohrabian is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 12 on charges of kidnapping for ransom, kidnapping, second-degree robbery, criminal threats, false imprisonment by violence and, as of Monday, also on a charge of witness intimidation.

Deputy District Attorney Taly Peretz asked Judge Lyons to add $100,000 to Sohrabian’s bail, which was already set at $1 million.

Geragos — who has defended many of California’s rich and famous including superstar Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr. and O.J. Simpson — had asked that his client’s bail be reduced to $100,000 and that the case be dismissed.

“This is a setup by a scam artist who is a drug addict,” Geragos told the judge.

Bound and gagged
The hearing stopped abruptly before it actually got underway after Geragos asked his client’s wife to “step outside” the courtroom during testimony.

Shouting was heard in the hallway after the confrontation.

A deputy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department assigned to the courtroom told the judge, “we’ve got an issue here” and called on fellow deputies for help.

The judge was informed that the issue unfolding in the hallway was a confrontation involving a witness.

The hearing, which resumed after the brief hallway incident, centered around the testimony of Vrej Gosarian, a broad-shouldered man with a robust, gray mustache who spoke almost no English.

Gosarian told the court he received a call on his cell phone June 15 regarding a job prospect that required him to drive to Castaic and give a estimate on a fence-building project.

He said he stopped at a gas station on The Old Road when he was unable to find the address. It was at that point, he said, that a man pulled up in a car and told him to follow him to the house.

“When I went in, (to the house) he put a gun against my head and said ‘Don’t speak or we’ll shoot you.’”

Once inside the house, Gosarian said through an Armenian interpreter that he was blindfolded with what he described as duct tape, had his mouth taped, hands handcuffed behind him and his legs bound together.

A man allegedly brandishing a stun gun allegedly bound Gosarian and told him to “be calm.”

A second man armed with “a pistol” did most of the talking, Gosarian said.

According to Gosarian, the two men had to drag him away from the front of the house to another room, each grabbing one of his arms.

Gosarian said he suffered four electric shocks from the stun gun: two on his upper right chest near his shoulder and two on his right upper back.

Prosecutor Peretz showed him photographs of injuries on these areas of his body then asked him what happened once he was inside the other room.

“They were saying ‘You did this to my son.’ Supposedly, that I gave drugs to (his) son and as a result he died. And, that this was in retaliation,” Gosarian said. “He said ‘You did this to my son and this is revenge.’”

The gunman, at one point, hit Gosarian in the back of the head with an open hand.

Then talk turned to money, Gosarian said.

The gunman began demanding money — first, he wanted $200,000, then $100,000 and $50,000.

Gosarian said he had only $35,000, explaining he was able to negotiate because the duct tape failed to adhere tightly to his mouth due to the thickness of his mustache.

“Ludicrous”

Geragos, who is of Armenian descent himself, questioned Gosarian’s ability to speak English at one point.

He called it “ludicrous” that someone could negotiate prices while gagged.

Geragos began his cross-examination of Gosarian by showing him phone records for the phone number Gosarian said was used by his kidnappers.

“You’ve been to that location, on that road, in Castaic before, haven’t you?” he asked Gosarian, who denied the suggestion.

“On September second, 2009, you had been there,” Geragos said.

Gosarian said, “No.”

The defense lawyer asked the witness if he used drugs on the day of the alleged kidnapping.

Gosarian said, “No.”

Asked how long he had been a “habitual opium user,” Gosarian said he’s been “clean” for two years.

In wrapping up the day’s proceedings, prosecutor Peretz pointed out to the judge that a second man wanted in connection with the same incident in Castaic is still at large.

A $1.3 million arrest warrant has been issued for Akop Kirakosyan, 55, of Glendale, in connection with the same June incident.

“I believe he’s fled the county, and I believe he’s fled the country,” Peretz said.

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