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A member of a Florida family accused of severely beating a man over his sexuality has had the charges against him dropped and he insists that he and his relatives are innocent.
Vladyslav Makarenko, 25, had been charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and battery in March in connection with the alleged beating of a man "based on his sexual orientation” last summer, the Broward State Attorney’s Office previously stated.
The alleged victim, who's not being identified in accordance with the state's Marsy's Law, told authorities he was in a same-sex relationship with Oleh Makarenko, Vladyslav's brother, and the family attacked him because they thought he "made" their son gay.
But the state attorney's office dropped the charges against Vladyslav last month and he was released June 17, he told Oxygen.com Thursday. Paula McMahon, a public information officer for the Broward State Attorney’s Office confirmed to Oxygen.com via email Thursday that prosecutors dropped the case against him, “immediately after defense attorneys provided evidence that he was not in the region when the crime occurred.”
“I was in Georgia when it [the alleged attack] happened,” Makarenko told Oxygen.com by phone on Thursday.
The attorney’s office had filed hate crime charges in April against Makarenko and three of his relatives: father Yevhen Makarenko, 44, mother Inna Makarenko, 45, and Oleh Makarenko, 21, for attempted first-degree murder, battery during the burglary of a dwelling, and kidnapping – charges which can carry a life term. Vladyslav’s twin brother Pavlo, 25, iwas also being held on similar charges, though without the hate crime enhancement, in New York. He was released because Florida had withdrawn his extradition request. Vladyslav said that if Pavlo returned to Florida, he would also face a hate crime charge.
The charges against Vladyslav's parents and two brothers are still pending, though all four have been released from jail, McMahon told Oxygen.com on Wednesday. She declined to comment further, citing the ongoing nature of the case.
The family are Ukrainian refugees who have lived in the United States about six years. While they may not be in a criminal jail, Vladyslav told Oxygen.com that his four relatives are currently still being held in immigration detention facilities and that their immigration status is in jeopardy.
“I’m really concerned about my mom and dad and their health right now,” he told Oxygen.com. “The treatment there is terrible. I cannot even express how bad it is.”
Vladyslav, who said he lost his business license to run his pet transporting company as a result of the allegations, said he was discriminated against in jail. He said that a jail worker at the Tallapoosa County Jail in Alabama told him to sleep on the floor, stating that he must be used to it because he is Ukrainian. The Tallapoosa County jail has not immediately responded to Oxygen.com’s request for comment.
“This shouldn’t happen in 21st century in the United States, especially with all these messages that the government saying that they support Ukraine and Ukrainian people,” Vladyslav told Oxygen.com.
He confirmed that his brother Oleh reportedly had a relationship, at least over text, with the 31-year-old alleged victim, who “has been permanently blinded and sustained other serious injuries as a result of the incident,” according to the previous press release from prosecutors. But he maintains that the rest of the family never even met the man.
The family is accused of attacking the alleged victim in August after Vladyslav's parents found out he was in a relationship with Oleh, according to the Miami Herald. According to the alleged victim, Oleh’s father “found out that he was homosexual” and “was treating him poorly and was not accepting him,” an arrest warrant obtained by the Herald states. The family is accused of holding down the victim and beating him.
Vladyslav maintains that his relatives are innocent, and said they are being held solely on the statement from the alleged victim.
“My family are decent people trying to lead a decent life,” he said. “We are not violent people. My dad my mom, my brothers and me, never hurt no one. This is not part of our culture. My parents never even had any conflict with people around them, they try to be nice to everyone.”
Michael Glasser, a lawyer for the family, has previously accused the victim of lying; he points out that he didn’t recall the story until February, a month before the family’s arrest. Initially, the victim attributed his severe injuries to a drunken fall, Glasser said, according to CBS News.
The victim was on a ventilator for three weeks, according to the Miami Herald, and has had four surgeries as a result of his injuries, which included a concussion, a fractured jaw and multiple facial bone fractures. Doctors expect he will never regain his eyesight.
“He said, ‘Oh, now I have a recollection of what happened, and it was this family, and they came and beat me because I was in a relationship with her son and they didn’t like it,’” Glasser said, according to CBS Miami.
Yevhen Makarenko, Inna Makarenko, and Oleh Makarenko are due in court in Broward County in the criminal case on Aug. 5, according to court records.