Two men sentenced to prison for hate-motivated attack at Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills
Two men who carried out a hate-motivated attack at a Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills in 2020 were sentenced to federal prison terms Monday, authorities said.
William Stepanyan, a 23-year-old Glendale resident, and Harutyun Harry Chalikyan, a 24-year-old Tujunga resident, previously pleaded guilty to one count each of federal conspiracy and hate crime charges, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors on Jan. 6.
Stepanyan was sentenced to five years in federal prison, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California. Chalikyan was sentenced to one year and three months in prison.
The men were also ordered to pay $21,200 in restitution, prosecutors said.
The attack on Nov. 4, 2020, was rooted in the historic animosity between Turkey and Armenia, according to authorities. Both Stepanyan and Chalikyan are Armenian American.
Tensions between Turkish and Armenian communities worldwide flared in September 2020 as Turkey supported Azerbaijan in its border war with Armenia.
For the record:
9:20 p.m. March 8, 2022A previous version of this story said Stepanyan sent a text message about his plans to Chalikyan. Prosecutors did not name the person he sent the message to. It also said the sentencing memo was filed Sunday. It was filed Jan. 6.
On the day of the attack, Stepanyan sent a text message to a person authorities haven’t named, saying that he planned to go “hunting for [T]urks,” prosecutors said.
A Glendale man will plead guilty to federal hate crime charges after he attacked a Turkish restaurant and made death threats.
The defendants and “at least nine other people” drove to the restaurant, which they chose “because they considered the restaurant symbolic of Turkey and believed that Turkish people would be present,” prosecutors said.
After arriving at the restaurant, Stepanyan and Chalikyan “stormed” inside and attacked victims while wearing masks, prosecutors said.
According to the plea agreement, the two men shouted things like: “Turks!”; “Ah! Armenia!”; “Azerbaijan!”; “Artsakh is Armenia!” and “We came to kill you! We will kill you!”
Four of the five victims of the attack were of Turkish descent, prosecutors said. Multiple people were injured, “including one individual who lost feeling in their legs and collapsed multiple times due to the injury,” they added.
Stepanyan also ripped out the restaurant’s computer terminals and stole a victim’s iPhone, prosecutors said.
The attack resulted in at least $20,000 in property damage and forced the restaurant to close temporarily, “resulting in thousands of dollars in lost revenue,” prosecutors said.
The restaurant, Café Istanbul in Beverly Hills, is not identified in court documents. The business’ name was previously disclosed to The Times by the Beverly Hills Police Department, which helped investigate the incident.
In a victim statement filed Friday and translated from Turkish, the victim said he came to America “with great hope of equality and acceptance,” but that hope was “all but completely shattered” by the attack.
The victim described being stunned at first as Stepanyan and Chalikyan came in shouting slurs and threatening to kill Turkish people.
The victim said the front of the restaurant was blocked by a mob of violent men, so he, his wife and an employee of the restaurant were forced to run through a reception desk area that was within Stepanyan’s and Chalikyan’s “path of destruction and violence.”
As they ran into a corridor toward a back exit, the victim said, Stepanyan hurled a chair, which hit him in the back and knocked him into a wall.
“Have you ever heard the sound of terror,” he wrote, recalling his wife’s screams.
They reached the emergency exit and emerged in an alley, but found themselves hemmed in by groups of men on both sides.
“Their silhouettes grew as they converged upon us with rage,” the victim wrote.
A federal grand jury has indicted two men for allegedly assaulting and threatening five people at a Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills.
The victim, his wife and the employee ran into an apartment complex behind the restaurant and knocked on the door of the first apartment they could find.
A resident let them in. They called 911 and the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles for help, the victim wrote, adding that he is haunted by memories of the attack.
He worries for his family and for the one employee who did not quit after the attack, according to the statement. He said he also fears answering the phone because people have left voicemails or made direct threats to “drop the case” and keep their mouths shut.
The victim wrote that he does not believe the majority of Armenian Americans support what happened and thanked his Armenian friends for standing by him and his family.
According to a letter of support filed by his parents, Stepanyan’s mental health deteriorated in his 20s as he started drinking alcohol. His parents described him as a loving, caring person when sober and said they thought alcohol alone was the cause of his problem behavior.
“But as things got more difficult at home … we accepted that he may have some mental illness [and] that we need professional help,” Stepanyan’s parents wrote. “Just when we found a professional psychologist, the pandemic happened and they stopped taking patients.”
Stepanyan’s parents said they speak with him by phone every day. He has been in jail for over a year.
“He is realizing how much alcohol has been a bad impact on his life,” they wrote. “We want him to be out of this mess so as a family, we can find the help and support he needs for a bright and healthy future.”
No documents in support of Chalikyan were filed in court as of Monday night, and attorneys for both defendants could not be reached for comment.
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