Two men were sentenced to federal prison terms on March 7 for their involvement in an attack in Nov. 2020 at a Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills.
William Stepanyan, 23, of Glendale, was sentenced to five years in federal prison, and Harutyun Harry Chalikyan, 24, of Tujunga, was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Both defendants pleaded guilty last October to one count of conspiracy and one count of committing a hate crime. The men were also ordered to pay $21,200 in restitution to the victims.
The men entered the family-owned Café Istanbul at 326 S. Beverly Drive on Nov. 4, 2020, and attacked five members of a family that operates the restaurant. The suspects shouted ethnic slurs, hurled chairs at the victims and threatened to kill them, prosecutors said.
The attack coincided with long-simmering tensions in the Turkish and Armenian communities in response to a 2020 war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a Turkish-backed neighboring country. According to court documents, the defendants, who are members of the Armenian American community, attacked the victims inside the restaurant out of anger about Turkey’s support of Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia. Earlier that day, Stepanyan sent a text message saying that he planned to go “hunting for [T]urks,” according to court documents.
The defendants drove to the restaurant with a group of approximately nine individuals who planned to demonstrate outside. Shortly after arriving, Stepanyan and Chalikyan entered the restaurant, threw wooden chairs at the victims, smashed glassware, destroyed a plexiglass barrier, overturned tables and threatened to kill the victims. Stepanyan pulled out the restaurant’s computer terminals and stole a victim’s iPhone. The restaurant sustained $20,000 in damage.
Three victims were injured, including one who collapsed, according to court documents.
“These defendants were driven by hate, and their actions were deplorable,” United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said. “The physical injuries and emotional trauma to the victims cannot be understated. We hope that the sentences handed down will help vindicate those harms.”
“The victims in this case were brutally attacked by the defendants who trampled their civil rights and likely caused lasting psychological pain for nothing more than the perception of where they were born,” said Kristi Johnson, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
The FBI and Beverly Hills Police Department investigated the incident.
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