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Armenian Genocide Museum of America

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    Re: Armenian Genocide Museum of America

    Courthouse News Service
    July 17 2014

    (CN) - A historic property in Washington, D.C., must be returned to
    its donor because of the failure to open an Armenian Genocide Museum
    there, the D.C. Circuit ruled.

    Armenian Assembly of America joined several other organizations 20
    years ago to create an Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial (AGM&M)
    in Washington D.C.

    The genocide was carried out by the Ottoman government in modern Turkey
    against its Armenian citizens. Beginning in 1915, a genocidal policy
    of massacre, forced labor and death marches killed an estimated 1
    million to 1.5 million people, and drove the Armenians out of their
    historic homeland in eastern Anatolia.

    To make their museum a reality, the Armenian Assembly and others
    purchased a historic building, the National Bank of Washington building
    at 14th and G Streets, just blocks from the White House.

    A benefactor, Gerard Cafesjian, also purchased the buildings adjacent
    to the Bank Building to expand the museum effort.

    After these property purchases, however, the philanthropists made
    little progress toward developing the museum.

    Eventually irreconcilable differences arose between major donor
    Cafesjian and one of the assembly's founders, Hirair Hovnanian.

    This split entered the courts when both parties laid claim to the
    museum-related properties Cafesjian purchased, and the assembly
    accused Cafesjian of mismanaging the project.

    The D.C. Circuit affirmed a ruling for Cafesjian on Tuesday, finding
    that the grant agreement provided Cafesjian the right to seek transfer
    of the properties granted for the museum's use because the museum's
    development foundered.

    There is no support for the assembly's view that equity should not
    permit Cafesjian to benefit from AGM&M's failure to meet its deadline
    "because Cafesjian's actions were the very reason AGM&M could not
    develop the museum by the end of 2010," according to the ruling.

    "As the District Court interpreted the evidence below, it was the
    'lack of funding' that caused AGM&M to put the brakes on the museum
    project, 'and the record [did] not clearly show that any actions by
    Cafesjian ... caused AGM&M to lose donors,'" Judge Robert Wilkins
    wrote for the three-judge panel.

    The grant agreement provided that, if the museum was not substantially
    completed by 2010, Cafesjian could seek either the return of the
    grant funds or the transfer of the property, without regard for the
    property's appreciation at the time of reversion.

    "With the benefit of hindsight, appellants may now think this deal
    improvident, but no sense of buyer's remorse can empower us to rewrite
    the plain terms of the contract to which they agreed," Wilkins said.

    Modesto Bee, CA
    July 17 2014
    By Michael Doyle

    WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court may have ended, once and for all,
    an extraordinarily protracted legal fight over a proposed Armenian
    Genocide Museum and Memorial.

    In a 37-page decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
    unanimously upheld a 2011 trial judge's order awarding the property
    intended for the museum to the Cafesjian Family Foundation.

    The three-judge panel's decision rejected competing claims by the
    Armenian Assembly of America, which had sought a new trial. Most
    poignantly, though, the appeals court voiced dismay over what it
    called the "morass of litigation" that has entangled museum plans.

    "More than seven years and millions of dollars in legal fees later,
    much of the parties' work to achieve their dream of a museum appears
    to have been for naught, which is regrettable," Judge Robert L.

    Wilkins wrote. "Whatever happens next, hopefully our decision today
    can at least serve as the last word on this dispute's protracted
    journey through the courts."

    Hirair Hovnanian, chairman of the Armenian Genocide Museum and
    Memorial, said in a statement following release of the ruling Tuesday
    that "we hope the Cafesjian heirs keep the promise Gerry (Cafesjian)
    made to the courts, which was to use this property to build a museum."

    At one time, the late Cafesjian Family Foundation founder Gerald
    Cafesjian was a benefactor of the Armenian Assembly. Together, they
    planned the museum and memorial marking the period from 1915 to 1923,
    when by some estimates upward of 1.5 million Armenians died at the
    hands of the Ottoman Empire.

    In downtown Washington, project supporters bought a four-story National
    Bank of Washington building in 2000. Cafesjian provided funding and
    bought adjacent properties, with a clause that the properties would
    revert to his control if the project wasn't finished by Dec. 31, 2010.

    Cafesjian and the Armenian Assembly subsequently had a falling out,
    leading to the seemingly endless court battles over control of the

    "With the benefit of hindsight, (the Armenian Assembly) may now think
    this deal improvident, but no sense of buyer's remorse can empower
    us to rewrite the plain terms of the contract to which they agreed,"
    Wilkins wrote.
    Plenipotentiary meow!