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Pinkberry co-founder threatened witness, sent to jail without bail

November 08, 2013|By James Barragan
  • Young Lee, left, one of the founders of the Pinkberry yogurt empire, with his attorney Philip Kent Cohen during his arraignment in 2012. The defense argued 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 )

Pinkberry co-founder Young Lee, convicted of assaulting a homeless man with a tire iron, is a "significant threat to the community" after threatening a witness in his trial and was ordered to jail without bail on Friday.

During closing arguments on Wednesday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Zoumberakis reminded the jury of the threat.

"Do you remember the moment when David Lee stood on the witness stand and told us he'd been threatened?" Zoumberakis asked the jury. "'I'm going to cut the throat of your mother, your wife, your daughter and you.' And remember how the air left the room because you could tell how scared David Lee was?"

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Henry Hall remembered. After the jury returned the guilty verdict on Friday, Hall determined that Young Lee, 49, must stay in custody without bail until his sentencing in January.

A jury of six men and six women on Friday found Lee guilty of beating a homeless man, Donald Bolding, with a tire iron after Bolding flashed a tattoo of a stick figure couple having sex to the people in Lee's car, which included his fiancee. Lee drove away, but then returned with another man who was in the car and beat Bolding.

Zoumberakis, who described the evidence in the case as "overwhelming," said: "I think there was a sense of entitlement felt by the defendant to the point where, he felt he was disrespected by someone he believed to be below him." 

Bolding suffered a broken left forearm and several cuts to the head during the attack in June 2011, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office.

Lee -- who helped found Pinkberry in 2005 but is no longer involved with the company -- faces a maximum of seven years in state prison.

During closing arguments Wednesday, the defense attorney and prosecutor 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?'" Zoumberakis told the jury. "It's 'Who did what?'"

Philip 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.

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.

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Twitter: @James_Barragan

james.barragan@latimes.com

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