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Thursday, January 27, 2000

Law school exam cheats
sentenced to year
of detention

Staff and wire reports


Two men who tried to get into law school by stealing questions to the entrance exam in Los Angeles and paging them to Hawaii have been sentenced to a year of home detention.

In addition, Danny Khatchaturian, 24, and Dikran Iskendarian, 23, of Glendale, Calif., and a third defendant must collectively pay nearly $97,000 in restitution to the Law School Admissions Council, a California judge ruled yesterday.

Khatchaturian and Iskendarian pleaded no contest in November to conspiracy, theft and robbery in the Feb. 8, 1997, incident.

They planned to cheat by taking the Law School Admissions Test in Hawaii three hours after the third defendant, Ashot Melikyan, stole a test booklet from the University of Southern California Testing Center, prosecutors said.

They intended to use alphanumeric pagers to receive answers from Melikyan. Melikyan, 24, of Glendale, used fake identification to register for the test at the University of Southern California.

In trying to sneak the test out of the room, Melikyan made too much noise. A proctor chased him and he pulled a knife. He pleaded guilty in October to second-degree robbery, but it was unclear whether he had been sentenced. The other two had paid him $600 to steal the LSAT booklet, he said.

The ruse was uncovered at the University of Hawaii-Manoa Testing Center, when a test proctor noticed Khatchaturian and Iskendarian paying an unusual amount of attention to their pagers.

Lawrence Foster, UH law school dean, said he was not aware of any applicants ever cheating on entrance exams.

California Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler yesterday called their crime an affront to legitimate students but rejected the prosecutor's recommendation of state prison. He said both men seemed to be one-time offenders who punished themselves by destroying potential careers as attorneys.

The admissions council was unable to reuse the test because of the cheating, incurring a loss of $600,000 needed to create a new one.

Both Khatchaturian and Iskendarian scored in the 99th percentile -- a rare feat scored typically by students who go on to attend Harvard, Yale and Stanford, said Deputy District Attorney Loni Petersen. When both men took the test again without cheating, their scores plummeted to the 40th percentile.

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