By Kate Nahapetian,
Earlier today, assailants Sinan Narin of Virginia and Eyup Yildirim of New Jersey, who are being represented by Mark Schamel and David Benowitz, pled guilty to a count of assault with significant bodily injury, after participating in the beating of a group of Kurdish, Armenian, and Yezidi protesters outside of the home of the Turkish Ambassador on May 16th of this year. Narin and Yildirim were only two of the 19 individuals initially indicted to actually face justice in the United States.
At the official plea hearing this morning, the prosecution lead by Assistant U.S.
Attorney Sonali Patel read out loud the facts that the defendants agreed to, including multiple aggressions towards police officers, several statements supporting President Tayyip Erdogan, and finally, the assaults on Lusik Usoyan, Founder of the Ezidi Relief Fund and Murat Yasa, a local businessman and protest organizer. Although the defendants faced an indictment for hate crimes charges and more than 15 years in jail, almost all the charges were dropped in the plea agreement, which called for only a 1 year and 1 day sentence and a $12,500 fine. Judge Marisa Demeo will be able to increase or decrease that sentence at the official sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for March 15.
At today’s pleadings, the lawyers for the defense indicated their intention to argue at the sentencing hearing that the protesters’ alleged support of the PKK and the content of their speech should somehow mitigate the brutal assault, which involved kicking prone victims on the ground in the head, one of whom was rendered unconscious.
They also denied any coordination with Turkish security staff during or after the attack, although both defendants have received political support from Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, who many believe ordered the attack, and were personally visited in prison by Turkey’s Foreign Minister, who very publicly extended “love and greetings” from Turkey even after videotape images were broadcast of the defendants brutally beating Americans in DC.
The sentencing hearing is scheduled for 9:30am on March 15th, where the court will finally hear from the victim’s of the attack themselves.
“This plea agreement is indeed a travesty and we hope the judge will issue a harsher sentence, considering the brutality of the attack on both American bodies and fundamental principles by defendants, who have so far shown no remorse, but have signaled preparations to smear the victims instead,” said Kate Nahapetian, Executive Director of the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Accountability.
Video of the attack is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V98Bdv2YtaA