The NHL Case With Eerie Parallels to Ray Rice

It's not just the NFL. On Monday, an L.A. Superior Court judge ruled that Los Angeles Kings hockey player Slava Voynov will stand trial on a felony domestic violence charge for assaulting his wife, Marta Varlamova, saying there was enough evidence in the preliminary hearing for a trial. The story has eerie parallels to the Ray Rice elevator abuse incident, but despite its graphic details being public knowledge, Voynov's case hasn't gained anywhere close to as much attention.

Voynov is a professional hockey player in the NHL and is accused of beating his wife in an October incident. Afterward, Voynov was suspended without pay from the NHL. As with Rice, Voynov's team, the Los Angeles Kings, have remained publicly supportive of the NHL's decision and privately supportive of Voynov: On December 2, the team let Voynov skate with them, and were promptly fined $100,000. In November, manager Dean Lombadi told the OC Register: "My biggest concern is that if he is charged with a felony, this one incident could jeopardize Slava’s entire career."

According to testimony during the hearing, Voynov threw his wife on the ground before repeatedly kicking her body and choking her multiple times. During the hearing, Redondo Beach Police Officer Gregory Wiist, who was the only witness, gave testimony of his interview with Varlamova in October following the incident.

Although Varlamova was absent at the hearing, she issued a statement via her lawyer regarding the decision to charge 24-year-old Voynov:

Marta was stunned by the news today and she is devastated. She did not believe, and does not believe, that her husband intended to injure her and she believes that he is not guilty of any crime. She is worried about her family's privacy and concerned that she and her family are going to be subjected to ridicule, embarrassment and hatred because of this decision. In fact, she has already seen that beginning to happen. It is unfortunate that no one seemed to care what she wants, and that the authorities gave little or no weight to her view of the facts of the case. Despite this unwelcome news, she still expects her husband to be cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
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The defenseman said that the police officer's conversation with his wife was mistranslated because Varlamova's first language is Russian, not English. Attorneys for both parties have repeatedly classified the incident as an "accident," reported Nathan Fenno at the Los Angeles Times.

But Wiist's testimony was horrifying in its detail, and painted a vastly different picture than what Voynov and his lawyer have been saying. According to the officer, Varlamova was bleeding and distraught throughout the interview. Fenno live-tweeted the testimony during the hearing.

If convicted, the native Russian could spend up to nine years in prison and face deportation. Varlamova is currently still living with Voynov, and has turned down a protective order against him. According to SB Nation, she had also told the district attorney that she hoped her husband will not be pressed for charges.

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Both parties are trying to play down the incident — as well as the upcoming trial and its charges — but the huge disparity between what both Varlamova and Voynoy involved have said and Wiist's testimony hint at a fabrication of facts on someone's part. While the NHL might not be as widely followed as the NFL, if Voynov is ultimately found guilty, the NHL will have to tread carefully — read: do the right thing — in the repercussions they dole out.

The NFL didn't dole out the punishment Ray Rice deserved, and was justly slammed for it; hopefully, the NHL and the Los Angeles Kings won't make the same mistake.

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