Legal look: Semyon Varlamov, assault and deportation

By Eric Macramalla | Sports Lawyer

Varlamov has a court date of Dec. 2 on his assault charge. (USATSI)
Varlamov has a court date of Dec. 2 on his assault charge. (USATSI)

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Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been formally charged with third degree assault after allegedly attacking his girlfriend Evgeniya Vavrinyuk. Apart from jail time, he also faces possible deportation.

According to an affidavit filed by police, Vavrinyuk is alleging that an intoxicated Varlamov kicked her and stomped on her chest and dragging her across the floor of her Denver apartment. While still holding Vavrinyuk by the hair, Varlamov pulled her face to the floor and told her in Russian that if this were Russia, he would have beat her more.

"He has no concept of when to stop drinking, and when he drinks he turns into an animal," Vavrinyuk said.

By way of a News Release dated November 22, 2013, Denver District Attorney Mitchell R. Morrissey announced that Varlamov was being charged with one count of third degree assault under Colorado law.

Varlamov initially faced charges of second degree kidnapping along with third degree assault. The kidnapping charge, which carries with it two-to-six years in prison, can be tough to make out, and as expected, it was dropped leaving the sole charge of assault.

Under Colorado criminal law, third degree assault is called a Class 1 Misdemeanor and is often charged in cases of domestic violence. To be considered third degree assault, Varlamov has to have knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to Vavrinyuk.

As far as prison time, if convicted, Varlamov could face up to two years in jail (and not a maximum of six months as some have reported). He would also have to attend mandatory domestic violence classes.

Since the sentence could be anywhere between zero to two years, a judge would look at a number of factors when sentencing Varlamov, including whether it's his first offense, the type of damage inflicted and whether there are surrounding circumstances that justified his action (like self-defence).

So jail is Varlamov's first concern.

The second: deportation.

Under a federal US law called the Immigration and Nationality Act, a noncitizen can be ordered deported if he or she is convicted of a crime that is listed as a "crime involving moral turpitude." One such crime is domestic violence. So a conviction on third degree assault could trigger deportation.

So given this risk, Varlamov's lawyer may pursue a plea bargain involving charges that pose less of an issue given his immigration status such as disorderly conduct or trespassing. These would be ideal as they would not trigger deportation since they are not considered crimes involving moral turpitude.

If they can't plea a lesser charge, expect Varlamov to head to trial and take his chances with a jury.

Interestingly, Varlamov replaced his first lawyer with Saskia Jordan from the law firm Haddon, Morgan, and Foreman. This is the same law firm Avs coach Patrick Roy used when he was arrested on his own domestic violence charge (although Roy used Pamela Mackey who also handled Kobe Bryant's case).

There is also the issue as to whether Varlamov will be allowed to enter Canada on December 5 when the Avalanche take on the Oilers. This is the first game in Canada for the Avs since Varlamov was arrested.

Entry into Canada is solely determined by the Canada Border Services Agency. Their policy provides that a person may be denied entry into Canada if he or she is guilty of a criminal offence or has committed a crime. The word "may" is key since it means that the Agency has the discretion to refuse a person entry. At this point, Varlamov has been charged but not convicted. He should be permitted to enter Canada.

So Varlamov has a few things to worry about.

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