An Ottawa man who was a member of the now disbanded Proud Boys Canada terrorist organization has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in the U.S. It comes after he was extradited from Canada to face a charge that he assaulted a Palestinian man at a protest in Washington, D.C., five years ago, and that the attack was motivated by hate.
The assault occurred on March 26, 2017, when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — which advocates for a strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel — was holding its annual policy conference at a convention centre in downtown Washington.
Rival demonstrations by left-wing Jewish anti-establishment groups and the far-right Jewish Defense League (labelled a terrorist group by the FBI) and its supporters were taking place outside the centre at the time.
Among the Jewish Defense League's supporters was Brandon Vaughan, then a 22-year-old from Ottawa.
At the time he was also a self-proclaimed member of the Proud Boys — a far-right men's organization later labelled a terrorist entity in Canada — and was active on social media before Proud Boys content was banned from many sites.
Victim identified himself as Palestinian immediately prior to attack
Some of the evidence police in Washington collected was included in a 2021 factum filed in Ottawa Superior Court on a motion to have Vaughan placed into custody pending extradition. The factum states the victim from Charlotte, N.C., and his spouse were visiting their daughter, who was studying in Washington, and were dropping her off near the convention centre as demonstrations were ongoing.
The victim heard a woman say Palestine doesn't exist, and in response the victim pointed to himself and said "words to the effect of, 'This is Palestine,'" according to the factum.
Immediately afterward, the man was pushed to the ground and was punched and kicked repeatedly by several people as he lay there trying to protect himself, the factum states. His injuries included a wound near his eye requiring 18 stitches, abrasions, and bruising on his ribs and back.
The victim later identified Vaughan, who was wearing a Jewish Defense League shirt, as one of his attackers, according to the factum.
In April 2018, Vaughan was charged with a felony for his alleged role — assault causing significant bodily injury while armed — and was accused of being motivated by racial hate.
The felony assault charge carries a statutory maximum of 30 years in prison, and a conviction on the hate-crime enhancement would have increased the maximum penalty to 1.5 times that amount, or 45 years.
Vaughan had been wanted on bench warrant for 4 years
The indictment filed by the grand jury in Washington alleged the assault demonstrated Vaughan's prejudice "based on the actual or perceived race, colour, or national origin" of the victim.
A Metropolitan Police Department public incident report filed after the attack listed the assault as a suspected hate crime, and the bias as "anti-Arab."
Vaughan, now 27, waived his right to an extradition hearing in Superior Court in Ottawa last month and was conveyed to the U.S. days later on March 17, according to Canada's Department of Justice.
He had been wanted on a Washington, D.C., Superior Court bench warrant for nearly four years prior to his extradition, after failing to appear in court in 2018 when the charges were laid.
Pleads to lesser charge of simple assault
After signing a plea agreement, Vaughan pleaded guilty March 28 to the lesser charge of simple assault — a misdemeanor that carries a statutory maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
In signing the agreement, Vaughan admitted he acted voluntarily, on purpose and not by mistake or accident when he pushed to the ground and assaulted the victim after he had identified himself as Palestinian.
Vaughan was sentenced by Judge Sean C. Staples to time already served, according to Bill Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. Vaughan had been in custody in Canada for about two months prior to his extradition.
Three others, including a Toronto man, earlier pleaded guilty to simple assault for their roles in the attack: Jesse Vorona, Yosef Steynovitz of Toronto, and Rami Lubranicki.
Vorona, like Vaughan, was sentenced to time served. Steynovitz and Lubranicki were placed on probation, Miller wrote in an email.
The extradition and plea came after Vaughan pleaded guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice to possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and received a conditional discharge in May 2021. The charge stemmed from an unrelated incident in July 2020.
Charges of assault and failing to appear to be fingerprinted were withdrawn.
Vaughan was sentenced to 12 months of probation and was fined a victim surcharge of $100.
He was also ordered to complete anger management classes, not contact or be anywhere near the alleged victim of the withdrawn assault charge, and not possess any weapons.
In 2014, charges of mischief under $5,000 and failing to appear in court on the mischief count were withdrawn.
Attempts to reach Vaughan for comment were unsuccessful.