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Friday, July 03, 2015
Slava Voynov's Immigration Problem

Last November, Los Angeles Kings’ Defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested for domestic violence charges, which I wrote about in detail here. After the slow grind of the criminal justice system, yesterday we finally learned the outcome of Mr. Voynov’s criminal case.

In a deal to avoid trial on felony charges, Mr. Voynov has pled no contest to misdemeanor Corporal Injury to Spouse with Great Bodily Injury in violation of California Penal Code 273.5. While this plea does avoid the chance of being found guilty of a felony, Mr. Voynov’s plea nonetheless renders him deportable as a crime of domestic violence.

The issue of his deportability under this plea was firmly settled earlier this year by a decision in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: Marquez Carrillo v. Holder. In that case, the court held that no matter how a plea to a violation of Cal. P.C. 273.5 is structured, it is always considered a crime involving domestic violence, making the perpetrator subject to removal from the United States.

This is a fact Mr. Voynov’s lawyers surely knew, so the question remains of why he would agree to such a plea, especially when it appeared that his wife was a less-than-cooperative witness. The answer may lie in Mr. Voynov’s wife’s immigration status.

Although much like with Mr. Voynov, we do not know the specifics of her immigration status, we can presume that she is also not a United States citizen. When she began refusing to cooperate or be a witness for the state, the judge threatened her with contempt, which if charged as a felony, would make her deportable. Thus, she may have been forced to testify regardless of her personal desires in the matter.

There also appeared to be a number of other witnesses to the aftermath of the domestic violence committed by Mr. Voynov, both to the injuries of his wife and to statements both Mr. Voynov and his wife made. Therefore, even if she was not a good witness for the state, it appears likely that the prosecution would have been able to prove the felony charges.  With all of that information, it appears that Mr. Voynov’s best course of action truly was to take a plea deal to avoid felony charges, even though this conviction will render him deportable.

At this point, the Department of Homeland Security now has the right to begin removal proceedings against Mr. Voynov. It is always up to their discretion whether to do so or not, but they typically do not exercise their discretion in favor of perpetrators of domestic violence.   If proceedings are brought against Mr. Voynov, he may be eligible for relief against a deportation, but without knowing more about his status and history in the United States, it is too hard to speculate at what that relief might be.

In addition, even if the Department of Homeland Security does not initiate removal proceedings against Mr. Voynov, if his immigration status was based on a non-immigrant visa through his employment with the Los Angeles Kings, he may find that status suddenly revoked if the Kings cancel his contract and no other team is willing to sign him.  Either way, it appears as if we may have seen Mr. Voynov’s last NHL game.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Slava Voynov pled guilty. It has been corrected to reflect his plea of no contest.


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