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Former Penticton Mayor apologizes for threats, violence during civil assault case

While mayor, John Vassilak was involved in a family dispute that escalated to physical violence
(City of Penticton file photo)

The former mayor of Penticton took the stand during a civil trial in a Kelowna Provincial Court on Tuesday and apologized for his past actions.

Three years ago, on June 14, 2020, while John Vassilaki was the mayor of Penticton, he was involved in a financial dispute involving jewellery and coins with his family that allegedly escalated to physical violence.

In the weeks after the incident, both the former mayor and his brother Nick Vassilaki filed lawsuits against each other.

On Monday (July 31), John’s case was dismissed with prejudice, 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.

When Nick took the stand earlier in the trial, he explained that the family did not press criminal charges to avoid bringing shame to the Vassilaki family name.

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

When John took the stand on Aug. 1, he acknowledged his actions and apologized for leaving a threatening voicemail, pushing his sister and aggressively restraining his brother Nick.

On the day of the incident, John and Nick had been in a dispute about their family business and finances. At the time, Nick and his wife drove to his sister Athena Demosten’s house to visit his ailing mother who had been living there.

Demosten had received a phone call from John but did not answer. The former mayor left a voicemail where he threatened to kill and hospitalize his two siblings.

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.”

John admitted to the court that he did leave the message.

Approximately 15 minutes after leaving the voicemail, John walked into Demosten’s home and walked up the stairs toward them.

“He was furious, raging,” said Demosten.

Without speaking, John pushed Demosten into her kitchen cabinets and counter top.

Then, John turned towards Nick and shoved him down into the couch. However, John claims that he did not strangle Nick and said that he was not aggressive.

He previously denied all allegations of assault.

However, all three witnesses, Demosten, Nick and his wife testified in court that John choked Nick while holding him down.

Demosten said that she saw Nick’s face turning purple and pulled the brothers apart.

John then allegedly walked over to his 94-year-old mother and spoke to her in Greek. Demosten translated John’s words with their mother as “May your soul not come out unless I stomp on your chest 40 times.”

The police were called but John left before the RCMP arrived. The family did not press charges at the time and Nick told the police that the matter had been resolved.

Counsel for Nick requested a total of $35,000 in payment, including both punitive and aggravated damages while giving final submissions.

Counsel for John has asked the judge to consider a dismissing the case completely.

Both lawyers are submitting their costs to the judge for consideration. The judge is expected to deliver a decision on the civil case in the coming months.

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: Civil assault trial for former Penticton mayor underway in Kelowna


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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