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The People v. Aren Aznavoleh

November 6, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. GA077868) Teri Schwartz, Judge Superior Court County of Los Angeles

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Perren, J.


(Los Angeles County) Assault with a deadly weapon requires proof of an intentional act committed with knowledge of facts that would lead a reasonable person to realize that physical force would be applied to another as a direct and probable consequence of that act. (People v. Williams (2001) 26 Cal.4th 779, 782 (Williams).) There is no requirement that the actor intend or be subjectively aware of the prospect of such a consequence. (Ibid.) The primary issue in this case is whether a driver who deliberately races through a red light at a busy intersection and collides with another vehicle, causing injury to another, can be convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. The answer is yes. Although the trial court erred by instructing the jury that the defendant could not be convicted of assault unless he actually knew that his reckless driving would cause injury to another, the instruction inured to the defendant's benefit and the error was harmless.
Aren Aznavoleh appeals the judgment entered after a jury convicted him on two counts each of assault with a deadly weapon (Pen. Code,*fn1 § 245, subd. (a)(1)), and reckless driving causing injury (Veh. Code, § 23105, subd. (a)). The jury also found true allegations that appellant personally inflicted great bodily injury in committing both assaults (§ 12022.7, subd. (a)). The trial court sentenced him to seven years in state prison. Appellant contends the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions for assault with a deadly weapon. He also claims evidentiary error and ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm.


On the early evening of January 9, 2009, Timothy Worman was standing in front of his residence at the corner of Glenoaks Boulevard and Estelle Avenue in Glendale when he heard two cars revving their engines and accelerating eastbound on Glenoaks. Worman looked up and saw a sports car traveling through the intersection at a speed of approximately 60 miles per hour, followed by a red Nissan Quest minivan driving at the same speed about three car lengths behind. It appeared to Worman that the cars were racing or chasing each other.*fn2 Shortly after the cars passed, Worman heard what sounded like a loud explosion. He looked up the street and saw that the minivan had collided with another vehicle a block away at the intersection of Glenoaks and Concord Street.

Appellant was the driver of the minivan, and Rafick Daroose was driving the vehicle he struck. Areknaz Kevorkian was in the vehicle behind Daroose, second in line in the left turn signal lane from Glenoaks onto Concord. Kevorkian saw Daroose drive into the intersection after the left turn signal changed from red to green. As Daroose was turning left onto Concord, he was struck by appellant's minivan. It appeared to Kevorkian that the minivan was driving at a high rate of speed and that the driver made no attempt to slow down prior to the collision. Kevorkian did not hear a honking horn or screeching brakes, nor did she see the minivan driver flash his lights to indicate that he was about to enter the intersection.

After the collision occurred, Daroose lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a palm tree. Appellant's minivan spun out and ended up on the center median. Tire friction or skid marks could be seen in the middle of the intersection at the point of impact. No skid marks were visible prior to that point.

Daroose suffered an intracranial bleed and other trauma to his brain as a result of the collision. He is now unable to speak, eat, or swallow. He also suffered neurological damage to his right side and is unable to move the majority of his body. Daroose's spleen and a portion of his bowels also had to be removed and his right eye is nonfunctional. He is permanently confined to bed with little or no hope of recovery. Daroose cannot communicate with his wife or their young son and does not appear to recognize either of them.

Tadeh Haghvirdi and Haybert Mahmoudi were passengers in appellant's minivan when the accident occurred. Haghvirdi, who was sitting in the back seat, noticed a white car driving in the same direction shortly before the collision. Appellant was driving fast, and both Haghvirdi and Mahmoudi told him two or three times to slow down.*fn3 As they approached Concord, Haghvirdi saw the traffic signal and screamed, "It's red." Appellant did not respond, nor did he honk his horn or make any attempt to slow down. Haghvirdi could see Daroose's vehicle in the intersection before they struck it. As a result of the collision, Haghvirdi suffered a broken arm and underwent two surgeries requiring the insertion of a metal bar and a muscle transplant.

When Mahmoudi was interviewed by the police after the collision, he said appellant was driving up to 80 miles per hour and "maybe" had been racing. Haghvirdi said appellant was only driving 40 to 50 miles per hour and denied that he was racing.

Glendale Police Officer Bryan Duncan interviewed appellant the night of the collision. A recording of the interview was played for the jury and a transcript of the recording was provided. Appellant said he was stopped at a traffic light in the left lane at the intersection of Glenoaks and Graynold Avenue when he saw a white BMW one lane away in the right-hand lane. Appellant began driving when the light turned green, and the BMW started driving faster than him as if the driver wanted to race. The BMW passed appellant at about 65 miles per hour and moved into the middle lane. Appellant's speed reached 45 to 50 miles per hour. When he pressed his brake pedal, it "didn't came [sic] down." He could see that the light was turning green for the vehicles turning left onto Concord. He tried to drive to the right to avoid Daroose's vehicle, honked his horn, turned on his headlights, and pressed the brake. He heard his rear tires skid, but his minivan did not stop. Appellant acknowledged that if someone had been standing on Glenoaks, he or she would have thought that appellant and the driver of the BMW were racing. He denied that he was doing so.

Officer Duncan testified that speed racing on Glenoaks was "a big problem." There had been multiple crashes on the street as a result of racing. The posted speed limit is 40, and the officer had clocked cars driving on the street as fast as 102 miles per hour. The most common way for a race to start "is to pull up at a stop light that's already red; rev your engines; put it into gear; when the light turns green, that's your time to go." Officer Larry Ballesteros, an expert in accident reconstruction, testified that appellant was travelling 61 miles per hour when the collision occurred. The officer also inspected the minivan's braking system and determined "[t]hat there was nothing wrong with the braking system that would consider [sic] somebody saying that their brakes completely failed."

Less than two months prior to the collision, appellant was issued a speeding ticket while driving his minivan on Glenoaks Boulevard. The officer who issued the ticket testified that appellant was driving 59 miles per hour while the rest of the traffic was traveling the posted speed limit of 40 miles per hour. When issuing the ...

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