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Former Penticton mayor ordered to pay $14K in civil assault suit by brother

John Vassilaki was accused of strangling his brother during a family dispute
Former Mayor John Vassilaki has to pay $14,000 to his brother and sister after losing a civil suit. (City of Penticton file photo)

Former Penticton mayor John Vassilaki has been ordered to pay $14,000 to his brother in what a Supreme Court justice called “another chapter in the unfortunate conflict that has arisen within the Vassilakakis family.”

The ruling was the final decision in a saga that began back in 2021 when Vassilaki – who shortened his name while his family retained the original spelling – sued his brother Nicholas and nephews over what he claimed was unpaid rent.

That original claim was met with a counterclaim by Nicholas, who alleged that Vassilaki had assaulted him after a family financial dispute turned physical.

On July 31, John’s claims were dismissed with prejudice, meaning he couldn’t file another lawsuit over the same issue in the future.

A separate lawsuit filed by John over him and his son being allegedly frozen out of the family business was dismissed in June.

The assault counterclaim went on to be heard by the justice, who issued a ruling awarding damages to Nicholas on Aug. 25.

Following a phone call between Nicholas and John, the at-the-time mayor of Penticton drove to his sister’s home, where his ailing mother was living.

On his way he also left a voice message for his sister, which was played before the courts.

In the recording, John can be heard saying, “I’m going to kill all of you…I’m going to put you in the hospital for six months… You better take care of it, you don’t know what I’m capable of…So help me God I’ll kill both of you right now.”

Nicholas, his wife Helene and his sister Athena Demosten were all present when John stormed in. They had not listened to the voice recording until after John had left.

After shoving his sister out of the way, John turned to his brother and put his hands around his neck, at one point lifting off a hand to fend away his sister’s interference, the court heard.

“With the exception of the allegations that Athena injured her back from being pushed against the kitchen counter, that Nicholas suffered injuries from the incident and that John ‘fled’ in order to avoid the police, the remainder of the facts sought to be admitted were indeed admitted by John at trial,” reads the justice’s judgment.

The justice took some issue with the claims of physical injury as a result of the confrontation given Nicholas did not seek medical treatment and did not seek either civil or criminal redress until 15 months later and after John had sued him.

“I make this finding on the basis that I am not satisfied that John’s conduct resulted in a severe difficulty in breathing because of a constricted throat or a lack of air or such other similar definition of ‘choking’.”

The justice ruled that the incident was enough to satisfy the grounds of a tort of battery against John, which requires intentional application of force constituting a harmful or offensive contact with another, without the other’s consent.

However, the tort of assault was not supported by the justice, who stated that the tort requires the intentional creation of the apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact, which doesn’t apply since the family had not heard John’s voice message prior to his arrival.

Nicholas’ countersuit sought $35,000 in damages, and the justice ended up awarding $20,000, reducing the requested punitive damages to zero and reducing the general damages to $9,000.

READ MORE: Civil assault trial for former Penticton mayor underway in Kelowna

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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