There’s no way to sugarcoat the news that Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday.
“This is very discouraging for Voynov,” says Michael McCann, SI.com’s legal expert. “He now faces the real possibility of deportation from the U.S. and, consequently, the end of his NHL career.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the story, Voynov was taken into custody by ICE agents after being released from the Seal Beach Police Detention Center and transferred to an unspecified detention facility pending a hearing by an immigration judge. He is being held without bond, a common practice in cases in which the agency believes the subject is a danger to the community or a flight risk.
Voynov pleaded no contest to misdemeanor corporal injury to spouse with great bodily injury back in July and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Even though this charge is classified as a misdemeanor rather than a felony, McCann says ICE has the authority under federal law to hold him and seek his deportation if it considers him to be a dangerous individual.
“The facts relating to Voynov and his abuse of his wife, Marta Varlamova, are very disturbing,” he says. "It appears U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement finds them disturbing enough to seek a hearing before an immigration judge who will evaluate Voynov’s legal status to remain in the U.S. on a visa.”
That decision, though, could be a long time coming, putting the Kings in limbo along with the player.
And that’s not the only immigration hurdle he would have to clear to return to action.
“There [also] is a separate legal issue of whether Canadian immigration officials will let Voynov enter Canada to play games there,” McCann said. “Even if Voynov can remain in the U.S., Canada has the right under its laws to deny entry to those who have broken laws in the U.S.”
The Kings are scheduled to play 11 games in Canada this season.
But at this point, any decision the team makes is essentially for show. They, like the league and Voynov himself, are now at the mercy of the court.
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