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Most charges against six alleged gang members dismissed

Witness credibility, lack of evidence are cited by judge hearing case.

December 15, 2011|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Citing a lack of evidence, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Thursday dismissed attempted murder charges against six Glendale residents who police alleged were involved in a South Glendale brawl that led to multiple stabbings.

Judge Michael Carter also dismissed assault with a deadly weapon and battery charges against David Luna, 18, Tony Rios, 18, Thomas Salinas, 24, Christopher Andasol, 17, and Christian Gonzalez, 16, for allegedly taking part in the March 7 brawl.

The sixth defendant — Edgar Gonzales— will still face a felony battery charge, which includes a gang enhancement, for his alleged role in starting the fight by throwing the first punch.

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“I have more questions about what happened out there after hearing the evidence than before the preliminary hearing started,” Carter said in issuing his ruling in the Burbank courtroom.

Carter cited several issues, including the lack of witness credibility, in dismissing nearly all the charges against the defendants.

According to Glendale police, the defendants allegedly were gang members and had left a birthday party at Pacific Park. They began walking along the 500 block of Vine Street, where they ran into a group of men and women that police said were not gang members.

During the preliminary hearing, witness testimony established that Edgar Gonzalez and Luna belonged to the gang, while Salinas was a former member.

The defendants asked the group for cigarettes, but something occurred that allegedly led to Edgar throwing a punch, and a fight ensued, officials said.

During the fight, Hovhannes Babujyan received a blow to the head that left him unconscious for a day, while Rios, Salinas and the Gonzalez brothers were stabbed. The fight lasted about 30 seconds, officials said.

The attacker who actually caused Babujyan’s head injury was never identified through the prosecution’s case, Carter said.

Carter said a key question that remained unanswered was “what or who escalated” the fight.

“I find it interesting in the people’s case there was absolutely no discussion of the knife,” he added.

A knife was recovered, but DNA evidence belonging to one of the victims was found on the handle. Blood discovered on the knife was never analyzed, officials said.

Outside the courtroom on Thursday, Christian Gonzalez’s attorney, Jonathan Mandel, called Carter’s decision “fair.”

Family members of the defendants erupted in joy after Carter announced his decision.

“The truth has come out,” Salinas' mother, Catherine Luna, said. “Justice was done.”

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