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Trial of Pinkberry founder in tire iron beating goes to jury

Trial focuses on whether Young Lee or a companion beat a Hollywood panhandler who flashed a tattoo of a couple having sex.

November 06, 2013|By James Barragan
  • Young Lee, left, one of the founders of the Pinkberry yogurt empire, with his attorney Philip Kent Cohen, right, during his arraignment in 2012. The defense argues that another man beat the victim with a tire iron.
Young Lee, left, one of the founders of the Pinkberry yogurt empire, with… (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times )

The fate of the co-founder of frozen yogurt giant Pinkberry depends on the answer to one question: Who had the tire iron?

Young Lee, 48, is accused of assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly beating Donald Bolding with a tire iron in June 2011 while Bolding was panhandling on the side of an east Hollywood street.

After becoming upset that Bolding flashed a tattoo to people in Lee's car — including his fiancee — showing a stick-figure couple having sex, Lee drove away — but he returned with another man and beat Bolding, prosecutors say.

During closing arguments Wednesday, the defense attorney and prosecutor alike said the outcome of the case depended on whether the jury believed Lee was the one who wielded the tire iron.

"This case is not 'Who did it?' " Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Zoumberakis told the jury. "It's 'Who did what?' "

Phillip Kent Cohen, Lee's attorney, said he and the prosecutor agreed on "96% of what happened: that there was a tire iron and that [Bolding] was given great bodily injury."

But Cohen said his client never held the tire iron, and he attempted to cast doubt on the testimony of witnesses who identified Lee as the attacker, including saying that Bolding had "flat-out lied."

In the initial police report, Cohen said, Bolding alleged that he was arguing with the driver, whom he identified as Lee. Bolding said the man in the passenger seat had the tire iron.

But during the trial, Bolding testified that Lee had beaten him with the tire iron. Bolding has also filed a personal injury lawsuit against Lee seeking damages for the attack.

Zoumberakis showed pictures of a bloody Bolding to the jury and argued that Bolding may have given an incorrect report because he was in pain. Cohen countered that the rest of the police report — which included the correct time, location and description of the tire iron — was accurate.

"He knew exactly what he was saying," Cohen told the jury.

Cohen also said witnesses gave conflicting information about the clothing worn by the man wielding the tire iron, leaving open the possibility that it was the second man, not Lee, who was involved.

But Zoumberakis told jurors that when the evidence was "viewed in its totality," it points to Lee as the attacker.

The jurors will begin their deliberations at 9 a.m. Thursday. If convicted, Lee — who helped found Pinkberry in 2005 but is no longer involved with the company — faces a maximum of seven years in state prison.

james.barragan@latimes.com

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