BEVERLY HILLS—On Monday, March 7, two men were charged with federal hate crimes after pleading guilty to one count conspiracy and one count of committing a hate crime for the assault that took place at the family-owned Turkish restaurant, Café Istanbul in Beverly Hills on November 4, 2020.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, William Stepanyan, 23, of Glendale was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison. Harutyun “Harry” Cahlikyan, 24, of Tujunga, was sentenced to 15 months. Both suspects pled guilty to the crimes in October 2021.

On November 4, Stepanyan sent a text message announcing his plans to “Go hunting for some Turk[s].”

“That evening, the defendants drove to the restaurant with a group of approximately nine individuals who planned to demonstrate outside the establishment because they considered it symbolic of Turkey. Upon arriving at the restaurant, Stepanyan and Chalikyan stormed inside, threw hard wooden chairs at the victims, smashed glassware, destroyed a plexiglass barrier, and overturned tables. One of the defendants asked the victims, “Are you Turkish?” and shouted, “We came to kill you! We will kill you!,” read a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“These defendants were driven by hate, and their actions were deplorable,” said United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison. “The physical injuries and emotional trauma to the victims cannot be understated. We hope that the sentences handed down today will help vindicate those harms.”

“The defendants violently attacked people inside a family-owned restaurant because of their perceived nationality,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Such violence based on national origin has no place in our society. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute bias-motivated crimes in an effort to secure justice for the victims and the communities they are meant to target and intimidate.”

“The victims in this case were brutally attacked by the defendants who trampled their civil rights and likely caused lasting psychological pain for nothing more than the perception of where they were born,” said Kristi Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI is committed to investigating civil rights violations and holding accountable individuals who commit violent acts motivated by hate.”

Friction between the Turkish and Armenian communities was evident since September 2020. On November 4, 2020, tension between the two communities escalated over Turkey’s support of Azerbaijan. The United States established diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan in 1992, following its independence from the Soviet Union.