State Watch

2 men sentenced to prison for attack in Beverly Hills Turkish restaurant

(FooTToo/iStock)

Two California men were sentenced to prison on Monday after they pleaded guilty to conspiracy and hate crime charges in connection to an incident at a Turkish restaurant in 2020.

The men, William Stepanyan, 23, of Glendale, Calif., and Harry Chalikyan, 24, of Los Angeles, were sentenced to five years and 15 months in prison respectively, according to a Justice Department press release.

Both men pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of committing a hate crime. In addition to the their time behind bars, both men were ordered to pay $21,200 to the Turkish restaurant for damages and will have three years of supervised release. 

“These defendants were driven by hate, and their actions were deplorable,” said U.S. Attorney Tracy Wilkison for the Central District of California in a statement.

According to the Justice Department, Chalikyan and Stepanyan, who identify as Armenian American, attacked five people at the Turkish restaurant “because of their anger about Turkey’s support of Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia.”

Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan escalated in September 2020 over a border dispute. A ceasefire was negotiated, but tensions remain high in the area, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Turkey pledged to support Azerbaijan in the conflict, according to the council. 

The prison sentences come after Stepanyan and Chalikyan organized a protest outside the Turkish restaurant.  But when the pair arrived, they “stormed inside, threw hard wooden chairs at the victims, smashed glassware, destroyed a plexiglass barrier and overturned tables,” according to the Justice department. 

“One of the defendants asked the victims, ‘Are you Turkish?’ and shouted, ‘We came to kill you! We will kill you!'” the department said.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke with the department’s Civil Rights Division said “the defendants violently attacked people inside a family-owned restaurant because of their perceived nationality.”

“Such violence based on national origin has no place in our society,” Clarke said in a statement.

Tags Armenia Azerbaijan California Harutyun Harry Chalikyan Hate crime charges Kristen Clarke Turkish restaurant William Stepanyan
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