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Driver charged in 80-year-old's texting death gets probation

She enters no contest plea in deal that allows her to avoid a possible guilty verdict.

August 19, 2011|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

A 21-year-old Tujunga woman pleaded no contest Friday to striking and killing an 80-year-old Glendale man with her car last year while she was texting, officials said.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Patrick Hegarty ordered Ani Voskanian to serve three years formal probation, 300 hours of community service and to develop a lecture program for junior and high school students on the dangers of texting while driving, officials said.

Voskanian — who pleaded to a felony manslaughter charge for killing Misak Ranjbar — will not be allowed to possess a cell phone while inside a vehicle, officials said. Her license was also revoked for three years, her attorney said.

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“In this particular case, there is a tragic loss of a father of a family, on the other hand, another family could have lost their daughter,” said Glendale police Det. Ashraf Mankarios, who was the lead investigator in the case. “Although she will suffer the consequence as the result of this, in the end, both families came together, hugged and appear to be healing.”

Ranjbar’s son, Roger Ranjbar, also offered in court to go to the schools with Voskanian and lecture on the risk of texting while driving, Mankarios said.

Roger Ranjbar was also one of 20 people who wrote letters on Voskanian’s behalf in the hopes of reducing the felony charge to a misdemeanor before a scheduled preliminary hearing next week in Pasadena, her attorney Arthur Avazian said.

But in the end, Voskanian and her family opted to take the plea deal and avoid the risk of a jury finding her guilty, Avazian said.

Roger Ranjbar told Mankarios that the possibility of Voskanian going to jail for year appeared to be more of a punishment than a lesson.

Calls to Roger Ranjbar’s home went unreturned Friday.

Ultimately, Misak Ranjbar’s family wanted to “save one life” to highlight the consequences of texting while driving, Mankarios said.

“We just need to send a message of awareness that this is not a joke,” Mankarios said.

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 Misak Ranjbar while he was in a crosswalk, police said.

After being thrown into the air, Misak Ranjbar landed on the pavement, and Voskanian stopped shortly after the collision to remain at the scene.

“It’s just a terrible, tragic accident,” her attorney said.

Misak Ranjbar was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he died of head trauma.

If Voskanian’s case had gone to trial, her attorney said he would have argued that she had put down her phone before she crossed the intersection.

He contended that the last text was made 75 seconds before the 911 call.

“It’s been a long 11 months for her,” Avazian said. “She is very remorseful after what happened.”
 
 

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