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Pinkberry Co-Founder Gets 7 Years for Beating Transient with Tire Iron

Young Lee is no longer associated with the company, which opened its first shop in West Hollywood in 2005.

Pinkberry Co-Founder Gets 7 Years for Beating Transient with Tire Iron

Originally posted at 11:04 a.m. March 14, 2014. Edited to add new details.

A co-founder of the Pinkberry yogurt chain was sentenced today to seven years in prison for beating a transient with a tire iron on a Hollywood (101) Freeway offramp, with the judge calling it "a savage attack."

Young Lee -- a South Korea native and architect who is no longer associated with Pinkberry -- was convicted Nov. 8 of assault with a deadly weapon along with an allegation of great bodily injury, for the June 15, 2011, attack on Donald Bolding.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall imposed the maximum term on Lee, calling it "a savage attack on a defenseless person with a tire iron" who was protected from further injury by others who came to his aid and called 911.

"Those people are the heroes in this case as far as I'm concerned," the judge said.

The judge said the attack was motivated by Lee "feeling disrespected by Mr. Bolding."

Authorities said Lee confronted Bolding because he believed the transient had disrespected him by exposing a tattoo of two stick figures engaged in sexual activity.

The judge noted that Lee drove at least 100 yards down the road before pulling out the tire iron from the car and coming back with a companion to confront Bolding, who was panhandling on the Vermont Avenue offramp of the Hollywood Freeway.

"It has nothing to do with self-defense," Hall said.

Saying that the maximum sentence was "justified," Deputy District Attorney Bobby Zoumberakis told the judge that Lee chased the victim through traffic in broad daylight. After the hearing, the prosecutor said Lee struck the victim with a tire iron and his companion -- who has not been identified -- punched and kicked the victim.

Defense attorney Philip Kent Cohen unsuccessfully asked the judge for a 90-day diagnostic examination in which Lee would have been evaluated by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to determine if his 49-year- old client was suitable for probation.

Cohen said he believed that the case had been presented "as one of rich versus poor or one of 'have' versus 'have not."'

"I don't think that could be farther from the truth," Lee's attorney said.

Through an interpreter, Lee's wife, Jieun Kim, begged the judge, "Do not separate our family. Keep our family together."

A longtime friend of Lee's described him as "thoughtful," "serious" and a "valuable citizen," and said a prison sentence for Lee would "only compound this tragedy."

But the judge denied probation for Lee, citing the "horrendous nature of the attack" that left the victim with a broken arm and head injuries.

During a July 2012 preliminary hearing in which Lee was ordered to stand trial, Bolden testified that he had been asking commuters for money when he saw his assailant wielding a tire iron and demanding, "Apologize. You showed disrespect."

"It was a bad day. I was assaulted," he said.

"I'm befuddled. I'm like, 'What are you talking about?' That's when he hits me with the tire iron," Bolding said, noting that he was hit twice in the head.

The transient said he was bleeding when he ran into oncoming traffic in an effort to avoid being attacked further. He testified that he was ordered to get on his hands and knees to apologize as he fell against a fence.

"I'm trying to cover my head because he's swinging the tire iron," Bolding testified, saying that he felt pain when he was struck in the arm.

Bolding has filed a civil lawsuit against Lee.

Attorney Gary S. Casselman -- who represents Bolding in the civil lawsuit -- told reporters after the hearing that the sentence was "justified" for a "horrendous attack" in which his client's broken arm took seven months to heal.

"He is off the street, but I'm not at liberty to discuss it any further," Casselman said.

Lee, a former kick-boxer, co-founded Pinkberry with then-wife Shelly Hwang in 2005. The first Pinkberry opened in West Hollywood. He is no longer involved with the company, its partners or its more than 170 stores worldwide. Pinkberry formally ended his ties with him in May 2010, according to the company.

Lee will have to serve 85 percent of the prison sentence, the prosecutor said. The judge gave Lee credit for 150 days he has already served behind bars.

--City News Service

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