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A Question of Identity

Which accused LA crime figure is a friend of a friend of ex-Los Angeles DA Steve Cooley?

Kenny Reed—Gambaryan's well-respected, Santa Ana-based defense lawyer—was shocked that Tristan seemed, in his view, to "dishonestly" smear Solakyan, "a pillar of the community," for trying to help his client obtain pre-trial bail. Reed claims that Solakyan is so respected in law enforcement in recent years "he met with department heads of the CIA, FBI, DEA and he toured the White House as a guest given a private tour." Reed also suggests that Cooley's association with Solakyan is unquestionable proof of his character.

But Sam Dordulian, a former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney and Solakyan's personal lawyer, is most incredulous. "I am dismayed at the level of unprofessionalism, utter disregard for the truth, logic and even reasoning," Dordulian wrote in an April 1 affidavit. "It seems the quest to 'win' at all cost is on full display by [Tristan] . . . To label my client a 'target' now simply because he had the audacity to offer his properties as a surety for an old family friend is an inappropriate use of authority."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakazato declared on March 27 that Tristan's filings to block Gambaryan's bail are so far mostly based on "unsubstantiated" assertions and are "a disgrace " because the prosecutor's briefs contain "numerous typographical, formatting, grammatical and spelling errors."

Ex-LA District Attorney Steve Cooley now works for Sam Solikyan, a target in a federal organized crime probe.
Ex-LA District Attorney Steve Cooley now works for Sam Solikyan, a target in a federal organized crime probe.
Jim Rugg

Details

The 16-year judge, normally a favorite of prosecutors, hasn't hidden his contempt for Tristan's "disorganization." Yet Nakazato, whose parents suffered internment during World War II, is no sucker. He too has his suspicions about Solakyan, writing in an order of his "amazement" that someone so young could have obtained his "apparent wealth."

During a heated April 9 hearing inside Santa Ana's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, Tristan renewed his contentions that Solakyan's wealth is derived from "illegitimate" funds. Reed exploded at the sloppiness of the government's case–even declaring he will "rip open the chest" of the IRS agent on the case, Michael J. Walfield, when he lands on the witness stand. Nevertheless, Nakazato refused to grant Gambaryan's $3.55 million bail after noting the strength of Tristan's overall case. He ordered an April 22 hearing to resolve the issue of Solakyan's credibility, and he issued a warning to the prosecutor.

"You've painted Mr. Solakyan as part of the [criminal] operation as a straw man or a money launderer," the judge told Tristan. "If so, charge him accordingly. But if he turns out to be a solid citizen, then there will be hell to pay."

(This exclusive article first appeared online at 3 p.m. on April 10, 2013.)

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