Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Prosecutor as victim

Andrei Govorov's long ride home.

Prosecutor as victim

As “Law & Order” has taught a generation of television viewers, “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.”

Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Andrei Govorov is going to have to pick a team.

Last Thursday evening, Govorov’s decision to intervene in a loud, escalating confrontation on the Broad Street Subway ended with him being assaulted but also managing to restrain his attacker in a head-lock until SEPTA police arrived to make the arrest.

“It was so bizarre, so surreal, I couldn’t really believe it was happening,” said Govorov, 44, a city prosecutor since 2008 assigned to major trials arising out of Center City.

Govorov left the District Attorney’s office about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, bound for the Broad Street Subway and the first leg of his trip home. When he got to the northbound platform at City Hall Station, he said, there was a train stopped and two groups of teenagers – one outside the train and another inside – holding the door open and screaming obscenities at each other.

As tempers and decibels escalated, Govorov said, “it finally got to the point where I thought that if one of these kids has a firearm, it’s an invitation to disaster.”

So Govorov said he leaned out the door and yelled at the group on the platform to calm down and move away from the train. Then he turned to the two men inside, still heckling the crowd outside, and told them to “Shut your mouth. Just be quiet.”

Doors close, subway begins moving, crisis averted. Or so Govorov thought.

When Govorov moved to exit the train at Fairmount Avenue station, he heard one of the two men say, “white guy,” as he passed on his way to the door. As he stepped out, Govorov said, he felt a smack on the back of his head.

Govorov said he turned to the assailant and identified himself as a city prosecutor and told him “he was going to wait here with me until police arrived.”

Instead, Govorov said, his nemesis started throwing a flurry of punches to his face and head until the prosecutor got him in a headlock and immobilized him.

“OK, you got me, it’s cool,” replied his assailant and Govorov said he decided to relax the headlock. Immediately, the man started punching again until Govorov got him back into a headlock. Govorov called out to people to call 911 and then got out his own cell phone and called the emergency number himself.

At 7:09 p.m., Govorov said, SEPTA police officers arrived, arrested the assailant, took a statement and then took him to the emergency room at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Center City.

Govorov said he remained at Jefferson until about 3 a.m. – his supervisor, Assistant District Attorney Vincent Regan, joined him there – while doctors performed tests. The tests showed a “mild concussion,” Govorov said, but no bleeding inside the brain. His suit was ruined, a knee skinned and he was sore all over but otherwise unharmed. He missed work last Friday but was back Monday.

“It could have been much worse,” Govorov said. “I was very fortunate.”

That was his also his wife’s sentiment though she expressed it with a bit more anger, conceded Govorov.

“I was concerned about the situation escalating out of hand,” he added. “I didn’t see myself doing nothing.”

Govorov, who has a three-year-old son, is a native of St. Petersburg, Russia and his voice still carries traces of an accent.

“It’s actually Ukrainian,” Govorov corrected. “My mother was from Ukraine.”

Govorov joined the District Attorney’s office fresh out of Widener Law School, after having an internship with the prosecutor’s office: “I fell in love with it.”

Govorov’s alleged assailant turned out to be a little longer in the tooth than the teenager he described.

According to court records, Kamile Ladson is 30 with just one prior arrest for disorderly conduct; he was acquitted at trial. Ladson, of West Oak Lane, remains in custody in lieu of $100,000 bail pending a preliminary hearing March 26 on charges of simple and aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

About this blog
Inquirer reporter Joe Slobodzian covers the courts and writes about the people who find themselves there and what they face.

You can reach Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com. Reach Joseph A. at jslobodzian@phillynews.com.

Joseph A. Slobodzian
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