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Former lawmaker pleads no contest in parking lot incident during USC football game [Updated]

November 2, 2010 | 12:39 pm

Former state Assembly Majority Leader Walter Karabian pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace in an  incident in which he ran into a parking attendant with his car last year during a USC football game.

Karabian, 71, allegedly tried to drive his car into a parking structure at Exposition Park but was stopped by a female attendant who refused him entry for not having a proper permit. Authorities allege the attorney then drove his car forward, striking the woman several times. She was not seriously injured.

Karabian was initially charged with misdemeanor assault and faced a year in county jail. On Tuesday, Karabian pleaded no contest to a lesser charge and must serve 40 hours of community service and three years probation.

[Updated 3:30 p.m. A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office initially said that Karabian pleaded no contest to misdemeanor "fighting" but later said the plea involved "disturbing the peace". Joseph Gutierrez, Karabian’s attorney, said Tuesday that after his client performs community service, the misdemeanor no contest plea would be reduced to an infraction by the court.

“Walter Karabian is a man who has contributed extensively over the years to the to the community,” Gutierrez said. “This case was investigated very thoroughly and in the final analysis, the district attorney’s office agreed that a no contest plea to disturbing the peace was an appropriate resolution and the case will be reduced to an infraction in 6 months. Both sides agree that this was a fair resolution of the case given the facts of the case and Mr. Karabian’s history.”]

Gutierrez noted that the plea is not an admission of guilt and said that Karabian "strongly disputed the allegation that he struck the attendant with his vehicle" and that they had "expert medical evidence to dispute those allegations."

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office had referred the case to the city attorney’s office after refusing to file felony charges. But the city referred the case back for misdemeanor filing because a relative of Karabian's works for the city attorney's office.

Karabian, long known for his work on behalf of causes relating to Armenians, is a USC graduate who was elected to several terms in the state Legislature in the 1960s and early 1970s, when he served as majority leader.

-- Andrew Blankstein