Former Penticton, B.C., mayor John Vassilaki has been ordered to pay $14,000 in damages after being found liable for the battery of his brother Nicholas during a family confrontation in June 2020.
In delivering her decision, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Briana Hardwick described the civil case as "another chapter in the unfortunate conflict" within the family.
Nicholas Vassilakakis — who spells his surname differently than John — was asking for a combined total of $35,000 in damages for assault and battery.
The decision describes how a protracted disagreement over jewelry and coins belonging to their ailing mother led to a "significant escalation of familial conflict."
John, 76, was sitting mayor on June 14, 2020, when he left a profanity-laced voicemail on his sister Athena Demosten's phone, threatening her and Nicholas, 76, with death. The message was not listened to until after the physical altercation took place.
After leaving the message, the judge says in her ruling, John went to Demosten's home, where he pushed Demosten into a kitchen countertop and shoved Nicholas onto a couch. He then briefly placed his hands around Nicholas's neck.
When Demosten intervened, the incident de-escalated, and John left the house, but not before saying to his elderly mother, who was lying on the couch, Greek words that translate as, "May you not die unless I step on your chest 40 times," according to the decision.
In finding liability for battery, Hardwick said the case met the test of "intentional application of force constituting a harmful or offensive contact with another, without the other's consent."
In finding against the claim for damages related to the assault, Hardwick said the evidence did not support the test of there being "an intentional creation of the apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact "because Nicholas did not hear the threatening voicemail until after the altercation.
In her decision, Hardwick said it was significant to the claim of physical harm that Nicholas did not seek medical attention and only took a Tylenol in the aftermath.
She also noted that Nicholas commenced the legal action 15 months after the incident and only as a counterclaim in a lawsuit that John had filed in August 2021 that named Nicholas and two nephews as defendants in a battle over rental income on a jointly owned property.
That action, which was started in August 2021, concerned the Cellar Wine Bar and a small block of units on Penticton's Main Street. But that case was never heard because John successfully filed to discontinue the claim one week before it went to trial.
John Vassilaki was mayor of Penticton from 2018 until 2022, when he was unseated. He served a dozen years as a city councillor before that.
A separate court action filed by John and his son against Nicholas and the two nephews over control of family businesses was dismissed in June of this year for lack of evidence. Justice Hardwick was also the presiding judge in that case.