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Businessman pleads guilty in death of NBCUniversal executive

September 14, 2011 |  9:48 am

David_Andrew_Armstrong A Porter Ranch businessman pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of an NBCUniversal executive at the defendant's home.

6a00d8341c630a53ef014e8b8d1683970d-300wi David Andrew Armstrong made the plea before San Fernando Superior Court Judge Beverly O'Connell during a scheduled hearing in the case.

He faces probation to 14 years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 30.

Armstrong is accused of fatally shooting Brian Russell Kaplon in the chest with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle during a gathering on St. Patrick's Day this year at Armstrong's home in a gated community in Porter Ranch.

Authorities said Armstrong was showing Kaplon the rifle in the garage of Armstrong's home when the weapon discharged. Armstrong was arrested after allegedly making conflicting statements about the shooting.

Jim Blatt, Armstrong's lawyer, had argued the shooting was a tragic accident involving two friends. He said they had been drinking and laughing before the shooting and there was no sign of "a disagreement or anger."

"At the time of the incident, my client had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15%, which is approximately double the legal limit for driving," Blatt said.

Prosecutors originally charged Armstrong, who worked as an executive at his father-in-law's foam packaging business, with murder. With that charge, he had faced the possibility of 50 years to life in prison.

With Armstrong's plea to involuntary manslaughter, Judge O'Connell could have sentenced him to probation or as much as 14 years in state prison.

Kaplon, who worked in the finance department at NBCUniversal, was described by friends and co-workers as affable and creative. Kaplon's death left three children fatherless, including twins born to his wife after he died.

When O'Connell ruled in August that Armstrong had to stand trial on charges of murder and involuntary manslaughter, Kaplon's widow said she was pleased with the judge's decision but also said the trial process had been extremely difficult for the family.

"It's been horrific and surreal," Kristie Kaplon said last month. "Losing my husband in such a horrific manner is something nobody should have to go through. I just want justice for Brian."


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Photo: David Andrew Armstrong, left, with attorney James E. Blatt, plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in a San Fernando Courthouse Wednesday morning in the shooting death of his childhood friend, Brian Russell Kaplon (photo above right). Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / KTLA-TV