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Pinkberry co-founder convicted of beating homeless man with tire iron

Young Lee, 49, co-founder of the yogurt chain, is convicted of beating Donald Bolding on an East Hollywood street in 2011.

November 08, 2013|By James Barragan
  • Young Lee, co-founder of the Pinkberry yogurt chain, was convicted of beating a homeless man with a tire iron in East Hollywood. Lee, 49, also was declared a "significant threat to the community" because he had threatened a witness at his trial.
Young Lee, co-founder of the Pinkberry yogurt chain, was convicted of beating… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

The co-founder of frozen yogurt chain Pinkberry was convicted Friday of beating a homeless man with a tire iron while the victim panhandled on an East Hollywood street.

Young Lee, 49, also was declared a "significant threat to the community" because he had threatened a witness at his trial, and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Henry Hall ordered him jailed without bail until his sentencing in January.

During the trial, the prosecutor reminded the jury of the threat to the witness, David Lee.

"Do you remember the moment when David Lee stood on the witness stand and told us he'd been threatened?" Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Zoumberakis asked the jury Wednesday during closing arguments. "'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?"

The jury of six men and six women found Young Lee guilty Friday of beating Donald Bolding, a homeless man, 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, then returned with another man who'd been in the car. He then beat Bolding.

"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," Zoumberakis said.

Bolding suffered a broken left forearm and several cuts to the head during the attack in June 2011, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Bolding has also filed a personal injury lawsuit against Lee, seeking damages for the attack.

Zoumberakis could not say whether additional charges would be filed against Lee for threatening a witness.

Lee — who helped found Pinkberry in 2005 but is no longer involved with the company — had previously been in trouble with the law.

In 2001, he was charged with a felony count of possession of cocaine and two misdemeanor counts for beating of a spouse, The Times reported. He pleaded no contest to some of the charges and was sentenced to two days in jail and three years' probation.

In 2010, a person who described himself as a former friend asked for a restraining order against Lee after he showed up unannounced at the man's home and threatened him in Korean, The Times reported.

The man said Lee had an extremely violent temper and had once swung a knife at him. The judge refused to issue a restraining order, citing insufficient evidence.

During closing arguments, the defense attorney and the 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?'"

Phillip Kent Cohen, Lee's attorney, 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."

After the verdict, the normally confident-looking and sophisticated Lee sat with his head down, hair disheveled and shoulders hunched, as his family watched him being handcuffed and sent back into custody. A relative sat with her sweater in her face, eyes filling with tears.

Lee faces a maximum seven years in state prison.

james.barragan@latimes.com

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