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Attorney: Client not texting before hitting man

Woman taken into custody last week on felony count of gross vehicular manslaughter.

December 21, 2010|By Melanie Hicken, melanie.hicken@latimes.com

The attorney for the 20-year-old Tujunga woman charged with vehicular manslaughter after she struck and killed an 80-year-old Glendale man in a crosswalk said on Tuesday that she was not texting while driving, as police have alleged.

The woman, Ani Voskanian, was taken into custody at her home last week on one felony count of gross vehicular manslaughter after police said a nearly three-month investigation showed she was texting at the time she drove through a stop sign and killed 80-year-old Misak Ranjbar.

On Monday, Voskanian appeared in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Glendale for an arraignment hearing, but it was postponed for two weeks because her attorney, Donald Levinson, said he needed more time to review the case.

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Voskanian, who is out on $50,000 bail, dressed in black and clutched a tissue during her brief appearance in front of Superior Court Judge Frederick Rotenberg. Several dozen of her friends and family packed the courtroom.

Levinson said Voskanian will plead not guilty at her arraignment on Jan. 6, adding that the sun was in her eyes during the accident and that Ranjbar actually hit her.

"She was not texting," he said.

Levinson also assailed Glendale Police Department officials for "trying the case in the press" and for a "gross misrepresentation of facts."

"We're going to try this in the court," he said. "We will try this to the end if we have to."

Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz referred comments to the deputy district attorney.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office said the case against Voskanian was filed based on a careful review of the evidence.

"The evidence will be presented at a preliminary hearing," Shiara Dávila-Morales said in an e-mail. "We believe the appropriate place to try criminal cases is in the courtroom."

Voskanian's arrest last week has generated significant media attention and has only intensified after Mayor Ara Najarian said distracted driving had reached "epidemic" proportions in Glendale.

Voskanian was headed west on California Avenue about 6:37 p.m. Sept. 15 when she allegedly failed to yield at the four-way stop at Columbus Avenue and hit Ranjbar as he was in a crosswalk, police said.

After being thrown into the air, Ranjbar landed on the pavement. Voskanian stopped shortly after the collision to remain at the scene, police said. Ranjbar was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he died of head trauma.

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