Young Lee appears during a court hearing in January. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
A Los Angeles County judge ordered the co-founder of frozen yogurt giant Pinkberry on Thursday to stand trial for allegedly assaulting a homeless man on the side of an East Hollywood road after the victim testified that the entrepreneur repeatedly struck him with a tire iron.
In a preliminary hearing for yogurt mogul Young Lee, the alleged victim testified this week for the first time, saying that Lee hit him in the head with the tire iron at least twice before chasing him through a busy street to continue the attack.
Donald Bolding, 42, said he became dizzy from the initial blows and eventually crouched against a fence with his arm raised for protection. Bolding said Lee then struck him three more times with the tire iron, and he waved a flimsy piece of paper in court to show how his left arm dangled in front of him after the strikes.
"There was a lot of blood," Bolding said. "It was a bad day."
Bolding said that throughout most of the beating he clutched a cup with $14 he had raised panhandling that evening so that he would have money to eat.
With his gelled hair, dark suit and thick black glasses, Lee, 47, sat quietly next to his lawyer while Bolding fidgeted during questioning. The homeless man, who sported an overgrown beard, is now in custody on a drug sales conviction. Lee, who helped found Pinkberry in 2005 but is no longer involved with the company, is out on bail.
Bolding, who has been convicted of at least six drug-related felonies, said it was hot on the day of the incident in June 2011 as he stood on the 101 Freeway off-ramp near Vermont Avenue. Lee pulled his rented Range Rover up to the stoplight where Bolding was panhandling and Bolding asked if he could "spare any change." Lee ignored him. Then, as Bolding pulled his red sweatshirt off, two T-shirts he was wearing underneath also slid up to reveal a sexually explicit tattoo on his stomach, Bolding said.
In court, Bolding reluctantly lifted up his dress shirt to reveal two stick figures he described as a man and a woman having sex. Bolding said Lee looked at him "like he was angry," then sped away through a red light.
About five minutes later, Bolding said, Lee and another man who had been in the back seat of Lee's vehicle, returned on foot and demanded an apology from Bolding for having shown "disrespect." Bolding said Lee struck him in the head with the tire iron before Bolding fled through the traffic-filled street.
"He wants me to get on my hands and knees and apologize to him," Bolding testified, adding that he was not sure what he was supposed to apologize for and that he kept asking, "What are you doing?"
But instead of answering, Lee and the other man followed Bolding until he collapsed against a fence, Bolding testified. Lee, Bolding told the court, then administered more tire iron blows followed by kicks and punches to Bolding's ribs. Only after a man and a woman approached telling Lee to stop did the attack end, Bolding said.
Lee's attorney, Philip Kent Cohen, noted that Bolding originally told police that Lee's associate, not Lee, administered the beating. During cross-examination, Bolding admitted to having filed a personal injury lawsuit against Lee seeking damages for the attack.
Cohen read portions of a police interview in which Bolding portrayed himself as a fighter. The attorney pointed out that a woman Bolding previously dated had obtained a temporary restraining order accusing him of choking her while she was holding her baby.
Bolding said he was "85% to 95%" sure that his attacker was Lee. Another motorist who saw the incident previously testified that Lee carried out the beating. The witness said he stopped his car, approached Lee and demanded that he end the assault.
Superior Court Judge Terry A. Bork said there was enough evidence for Lee to stand trial on one felony count of assault with a deadly weapon and a special allegation that the assault inflicted "great bodily injury."