WASHINGTON—Earlier today, assailants Sinan Narin of Virginia and Eyüp Yıldırım of New Jersey, who are being represented by attorneys by attorneys Mark Schamel and David Benowitz, partner at Price Benowitz LLP, pleaded 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 16.
Narin and Yıldırım were only two of the 19 individuals initially indicted to face justice in the U.S.
At the official plea hearing this morning, the prosecution, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sonali Patel, read out loud the facts that the defendants agreed to, including multiple acts of aggression toward police officers, several statements supporting President Tayyip Erdoğan, 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 crime 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.
According to the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC), 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 Kurdistan Workers’ Party (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 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who many believe ordered the attack. The two 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 D.C.
The sentencing hearing will finally hear from the victims 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 ALC.
Video of the attack is available below.