One of two men convicted of murdering the owner of a Mar Vista medical marijuana dispensary during a robbery was sentenced Thursday to 40 years to life in state prison.
James A. Eastland, 25, pleaded guilty nearly a year ago to murder and robbery charges stemming from the Jan. 18, 2017, shooting death of Ovik Oganesyan, 50, at the dispensary at 12480 W. Venice Blvd., along with an unrelated robbery.
Eastland testified on behalf of the prosecution in the trial of co-defendant Kayshon Lamont Moody, who was convicted last October of the first-degree murder of Oganesyan and the shooting death of M.D. Mizu Rahman, 34, at a Chevron station in the 2100 block of North Vermont Avenue a day before Oganesyan was killed.
Along with the murders, jurors found Moody guilty of three counts of second-degree robbery involving the two murder victims and a separate robbery at a fast-food restaurant shortly before Rahman’s slaying.
Jurors in Moody’s trial also found true the special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a robbery and multiple murders, along with finding gun allegations true.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office opted before the trial not to seek the death penalty against Moody, who was sentenced in February to two consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole.
Eastland told jurors that Moody had talked with him about wanting to commit a robbery and told him he knew of a marijuana dispensary that didn’t have a security guard. But he said he didn’t realize they were going to rob the Golden State Dispensary until Moody informed him when they arrived at the rear of the building. He testified that he waited in the lobby until he heard gunshots, then ran toward a locked door, jumped through the shattered reception window and began grabbing jars of marijuana as Oganesyan pleaded for help.
Eastland said he didn’t recall stepping over the mortally wounded man to get to the business’ safe, but realized he had once he watched surveillance video of the crime.
Eastland — who said he had known Moody for about five months before the killing — said his friend subsequently directed him to rob a store to get more cash, with Moody saying he couldn’t go into the business because people there knew him.
Eastland said the two subsequently drove to Las Vegas, where Moody shot at another motorist who chased after him following a rear-end collision. Prosecutors contended Moody also shot and wounded a man during an attempted carjacking soon after the crash, but he was not charged with any crimes in Nevada.
The two men were pulled over and arrested by Los Angeles police on Jan. 20, 2017, shortly after they returned to Southern California.
In her closing argument in Moody’s trial, Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman told jurors that no mercy was shown to the victims, who were “taken by surprise” and each shot in the back in acts of “gratuitous” violence in crimes caught on video, even though the victims were “compliant” and “submissive.”
DNA evidence from a soda cup lid found at the scene of Rahman’s killing and on a 9 mm Beretta — the murder weapon that was found in the driver’s side pocket of the Nissan Versa that Moody was driving when he and Eastland were arrested — linked Moody to the killings, Silverman said.
Moody’s driver’s license, which was seen falling from his hands in the surveillance video at the marijuana dispensary — was left behind at the scene, the prosecutor said, telling jurors there was a “mountain of evidence in this case.”
Moody’s attorney, Hui Kim, told jurors she understood they would feel sympathy for the victims, but asked them to “objectively determine” whether Moody was responsible for the killings. She urged the panel to question Eastland’s testimony linking Moody to Oganesyan’s killing, noting that he had acknowledged lying to detectives in the past and was “receiving a benefit for testifying.”
“Someone who’s motivated in that manner can’t be trusted,” Moody’s lawyer told jurors.