Judge accepts plea deal in Slava Voynov case


Slava Voynov. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

TORRANCE, Calif. — Los Angeles Kings defenceman Slava Voynov was sentenced to three months in jail Thursday after pleading no contest to beating his wife after an argument at a Halloween party last year.

Voynov, 25, was also placed on probation for three years for misdemeanour corporal injury to a spouse. A felony domestic violence charge that alleged he caused great bodily injury was thrown out in exchange for the plea.

Voynov would not comment as he left Los Angeles County Superior Court holding his wife’s hand. He must begin serving his jail term by July 14.

Authorities said the Russian Olympian struck and choked his wife in their Redondo Beach bedroom after a fight that began at a party attended by other Kings players. He allegedly pushed her into a TV that opened a cut over her eye requiring eight stitches.

The case against Voynov became more difficult for prosecutors when his wife refused to testify.

Assistant District Attorney Frank Dunnick would not comment on whether her reluctance played a role in the plea deal, though he said it wasn’t uncommon to have victims go silent in domestic violence cases. He said the outcome was similar to what other defendants get in such cases.

A judge had ruled that other witnesses could testify about statements Marta Varlamova made when she sought medical treatment.

Varlamova said Voynov hit her in the face at the Oct. 19 party a few hours after the Kings won an afternoon game, Redondo Beach police Officer Gregory Wiist testified at a preliminary hearing. The abuse escalated at home.

Wiist found blood on a comforter in the couple’s bedroom, a bloody handprint and blood on the floor.

“She was crying, sobbing,” Wiist said, describing Varlamova at a hospital after the incident. “I saw tears streaming down her face. She was an emotional wreck.”

Voynov told police his wife was injured getting out of bed, according to a police report.

Varlamova later wrote a letter to prosecutors saying her injuries were accidental. A judge didn’t accept that evidence during the preliminary hearing and ordered her to seek counselling.

Varlamova was warned she could be held in contempt and fined for refusing to testify and was told it could affect her immigration status.

On Thursday, the couple entered the courtroom holding hands. Varlamova sat in the gallery with her lawyer and a Russian interpreter.

Voynov said few words through his own interpreter. He uttered “no contest” in Russian at the start and end of the brief proceeding.

The two-time Stanley Cup champ was indefinitely suspended by the NHL after his arrest and missed the final 76 games of the regular season while the case was pending.

It was one of the longest suspensions in NHL history and came at a time when professional sports leagues and teams were criticized for lax punishment for violence outside the arena of competition.

Voynov’s status with the NHL remained the same after the plea, but the league expects to further review the incident, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement.

The Kings, who missed the playoffs this year without their No. 2 defenceman, said in a statement that the court outcome was just and fair. The statement also condemned domestic violence.

The team confirmed in June that it suspended Voynov after he tore his right Achilles tendon outside normal hockey training. He had surgery in March.

Voynov has four seasons remaining on a six-year, $25 million contract with a hefty annual salary cap hit of $4.167 million.

His deal currently doesn’t count against the Kings’ cap because of his team suspension, but the NHL and the players’ union haven’t yet figured out how his plea will affect his eligibility.

Voynov is one of three Kings players with off-ice problems.

The team terminated forward Mike Richards’ contract Monday for an unspecified “material breach” of its terms. Veteran centre Jarret Stoll struck a deal last week with Las Vegas prosecutors to plead guilty to misdemeanours to avoid jail time after a drug arrest.

Voynov must complete a year-long domestic violence program and have no negative contact with his wife. If he violates terms of probation, he could be sentenced to up to 364 days in jail.

Defence lawyer Pamela Mackey said it was a fair resolution for her client.

Judge Eric Taylor lifted an order barring Varlamova from communicating with her husband, but recommended she continue counselling.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.