UPDATE: June 24, 3pm
Crown spokesperson Neil MacKenzie says the Crown’s position is that the case was driven by “drunken stupidity” rather than homophobia.
He says the homophobic utterings were taken into account, and the victims were advised that the Crown would treat it as a case “driven by alcohol.”
A provincial court judge acknowledged June 23 that Alexandre Tchernychev uttered homophobic slurs during an assault he committed last July but did not call it a hate crime. Nor did the Crown seek a hate crime designation in the case.
Tchernychev was one of two men accused of assault causing bodily harm in a July 1, 2010, gaybashing on Davie St.
He and Aaron Alexander Hahn initially pleaded not guilty to the charges last October, but Tchernychev suddenly changed his plea to guilty at the outset of the trial, scheduled to begin today, June 23, in provincial court. The Crown accepted Tchernychev’s guilty plea and stayed the charge against Hahn.
Judge Gregory Rideout sentenced the 22-year-old Tchernychev to 18 months probation on a suspended sentence.
Police had investigated the July 1, 2010, attack as a hate crime after “disturbing comments were also allegedly made regarding the victim’s sexual orientation,” Vancouver Const Jana McGuinness said at the time. But Crown counsel Tim Healey said Tchernychev’s assault on Brian Pavo, who was walking on Davie St with friend Ted Rocket, was the result of Tchernychev being drunk and misperceiving a comment.
Tchernychev mistakenly believed “Mr Pavo’s party was coming on to them and he became very angry in his intoxicated state,” the Crown said.
Tchernychev confronted Pavo and “made derogatory comments about homosexuals,” Healey continued.
“‘You want to go, bitch?’” Healey said Tchernychev asked Pavo right before he punched him in the mouth, chipping his tooth.
Pavo fell. Tchernychev punched him again, giving him a fat lip. At that point, a girlfriend intervened and Tchernychev and Hahn fled, Healey said. Police caught them not longer afterward.
Healey told the judge that Tchernychev, who immigrated from Russia with his parents in 1999, has a “serious alcohol problem” and is known to police as a result. Tchernychev’s lawyer, Henry Brown, confirmed his client has been taken into custody six or seven times as a result of alcohol use.
Healey said Hahn and Tchernychev had gone to a beach party, become intoxicated and were going to a girlfriend’s downtown apartment.
Brown said Tchernychev is remorseful about his behaviour. “He has been nothing but apologetic and embarrassed for his actions.” But his client’s assault was not motivated by homophobia, he maintained.
“What came out of Mr Tchernychev’s mouth at that time was not the result of any anti-gay attitude he had,” Brown said. “Rather, it was the result of a perceived insult.”
Brown presented a character reference from a gay friend of Tchernychev’s, Geordie Armstrong, who was in court on June 23. In the letter, Armstrong says Tchernychev’s actions do not fit with his knowledge of his friend. That did not stop Rideout from ordering Tchernychev to do 40 hours of community service, possibly with the gay community.
“Do something that assists in developing tolerance,” the judge said.
Asked if he wanted to say anything, Tchernychev said, “I’d like to say sorry to everybody.”
Rideout asked him what he thought of the city being strained by “boorish and drunken behaviour a while ago,” possibly a reference to the Stanley Cup riot.
“It was disgusting,” Tchernychev replied.
“I’m sure a lot of other people were of the same opinion,” Rideout said. “Your actions of July 2010 depart from the peace and good order of the city we enjoy.”
Rideout also ordered Tchernychev to write a letter of apology to the victims. “What happened on that evening must have been a startling event for the gentlemen,” the judge said. “I hope this letter is sincere.”
Asked afterward why the Crown didn’t seek a hate crime designation in this case — despite a memo from the BC attorney general last October instructing them to seek the designation where appropriate — Healey said, “We’re not really in a position to answer that.”
Healey promised to call Xtra back but has not up to posting time.