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Civil assault trial for former Penticton mayor underway in Kelowna

Former Mayor John Vassilaki accused of strangling brother, threatening his family while in office
Former Mayor John Vassilaki is accused of assaulting his brother and sister in a civil suit. (City of Penticton file photo)

After the former Mayor of Penticton had a civil lawsuit against his family dismissed in Kelowna Provincial Court, a judge will instead focus on his family’s claim of assault.

Both former Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki and his brother Nick Vassilaki filed lawsuits against each other after an incident took place relating to a financial dispute that allegedly turned physical on June 14, 2020.

There was never any criminal charges brought against John to avoid bringing shame to the Vassilaki family name, according to the civil suit.

John’s case was dismissed with prejudice during Monday’s proceedings (July 31) meaning that he cannot revisit the same issue in a future lawsuit.

Instead, the judge will make a decision on Nick’s civil suit. She will rule on whether or not John is liable and the potential amount of money he is to pay, but will not decide on criminality relating to the assault as no criminal charges have been laid.

Penticton’s former mayor sat in the Kelowna courtroom while his brother and sister testified against him.

Nick was the first called to the stand and told the court that on the day of the incident, he and John had spoken over the phone about finances and there was a disagreement.

After the phone call, he and his wife went to visit his ailing mother, who was living with his sister, Athena Demosten.

While on the stand as a witness, Demosten said that while the four of them were sitting together, she received a call from her brother John but did not answer and he left a message.

She said that approximately 15 minutes later, John walked into her home and marched up the stairs toward them.

“He was furious, raging,” said Demosten.

Then, John allegedly pushed Demosten into her kitchen cabinets and countertop.

Next, Nick stood up from the couch and said “What are you doing hurting your sister?”

Then, John turned towards Nick, shoved him down into the couch and began choking him, according to Demosten.

She rushed over and tried to pull the brothers apart when she noticed that Nick’s face was beginning to turn purple as a result of the alleged strangulation.

“I was pulling with all my might to get him off of Nick,” said Demosten.

When John let go, Demosten told her family that she would be calling the police, dialled 911 and briefly spoke to a dispatcher before she noticed John walking towards their 94-year-old mother and hung up the phone.

John then allegedly said “May your soul not come out unless I stomp on your chest 40 times,” in Greek, to his mother.

The former mayor then left the house when the police called back. The family did not press charges against John for the alleged assault.

“I didn’t want to humiliate my brother who was the Mayor of Penticton (at the time),” said Nick.

Both Nick and Demosten told the court the series of events while under oath, but the details of the incident have not been proven in a criminal trial.

The phone message left for Demosten, was played for the court. 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.”

The incident splintered the family due to fear, said Nick.

“We are afraid that he might attack us.”

The case will continue in Kelowna on August 1.

At the end of the trial, the judge will decide if, and for what amount John is liable to pay in damages.

John has previously denied all claims of physical assault.

In a separate civil lawsuit that went to trial in June, 2023, John claimed that Nick’s family had moved to freeze out John and his son as directors of the family business at a shareholder meeting, the judge ruled against the former mayor.

READ MORE: Former Penticton mayor’s lawsuit against his family deemed ‘manifestly deficient’


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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