A Burbank man with an extensive criminal record faces more than 11 years in state prison if convicted in connection with allegations that he punched a 78-year-old Costco shopper following a dispute over a Nutella waffle sample.
Derrick Gharabighi, 24, was charged with one felony count of elder abuse with the special allegation that he personally inflicted great bodily injury on someone older than 70, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday afternoon.
He entered a not guilty plea at the Burbank branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
"Gharabighi was at a warehouse store in Burbank when he walked up to get a Nutella waffle sample," a news release from the DA's office stated. "When the elderly victim reached out, Gharabighi took all of them."
When the victim said he wanted a sample and told Gharabighi not to take so many, Gharabighi punched the older man in the face, the release said.
The incident occurred Sunday morning at the Costco located at 1051 W. Burbank Blvd.
"It's a shame that it had to come to this over a Nutella sample," said Burbank Police Department Sgt. Claudio Losacco. "It's a tragic situation where someone in their 70s, almost 80 years old, is faced with something like this."
The punch left the victim with facial swelling and a significant cut above the left eye, Losacco said. The victim was transported to a local hospital by Burbank paramedics, and he was treated for his injuries and released.
The victim was identified in the criminal complaint against Gharabighi as Sahak Sahakian, 78. Police said his family did not want to speak to news media.
Gharabighi was taken into custody at 11:30 a.m. Sunday and booked into Burbank jail and was being held on $50,000 bail, county inmate records show.
He had been arrested less than two weeks earlier, and in June and December, by Burbank police, records show. He was arrested in April by Pasadena police.
Gharabighi was convicted of both possession of illegal drugs for sale and of petty theft in January, court records indicate. He had trespassing convictions in 2012 and 2013.
In July, charges of felony spousal or cohabitant abuse and spousal battery were filed against him. That case was pending.
Gharabighi faces a maximum sentence of more than 11 years in state prison if convicted as charged in the Costco assault, the DA's office stated.
He was due back in court Oct. 2.