Pinkberry co-founder Young Lee has been sentenced to the maximum seven years for his November conviction for beating a homeless panhandler with a tire iron. Lee, 49, was sentenced on Friday for his conviction of assault with a deadly weapon following the June 2011 assault of transient Donald Bolding.
The June 15, 2011 assault occurred after Lee’s Range Rover, containing passengers which included his then-fiancee and at least one other man, exited the Hollywood Freeway via the Vermont Avenue off ramp, where he encountered Bolding, who was panhandling. Bolding revealed a tattoo on his body which depicted two stick figures having sex. Lee drove away from the scene, but then returned with one of the male passengers who had been in the car previously, parked his Range Rover on Vermont Avenue, and began arguing with Bolding. Lee then ran Bolding down and ordered him to kneel on the ground and apologize, which Bolding did. Lee then pulled a tire iron from his SUV and proceeded to viciously assault Bolding, breaking his left arm and causing several cuts on his head as well as a concussion. Witnesses to the beating called 911 and were able to provide the license plate of Lee’s vehicle.
Court documents say that Bolding accidentally exposed the tattoo while changing his shirt. During a 2012 preliminary hearing in the case, Bolding recalls that he had been standing on the offramp asking for money. Lee then approached him, tire iron in hand, and demanded that he apologize for showing disrespect. Bolding stated that he had no idea to what Lee was referring and asked Lee to explain. At that point, the co-founder of Pinkberry began hitting him with the tire iron. Trying to escape further injury, Bolding ran into traffic before being ordered to drop to his hands and knees and apologize. Bolding stated, “It was a bad day. I was assaulted.”
During trial, Lee’s attorney defended Lee’s actions by saying that Bolding had threatened him in such a manner as to make him believe that the homeless man was carrying a weapon.
After the attack, Lee traveled to both England and Korea, but was captured by a fugitive task force at Los Angeles International Airport in January 2012.
Lee has been in held without bail since his conviction as ordered by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Henry Hall, who based his order on the fact that Lee had threatened one of the witnesses, David Lee, in the case. According to prosecutors during the trial, Young Lee told David Lee that he would kill his mother, wife, daughter, and David Lee himself by slashing their throats. Hall referred to Young Lee, an architect with a past in kick boxing, as a “significant threat to the community.”
The Los Angeles Country District Attorney’s Office released a statement through their spokesman saying that Young Lee’s sentence consisted of the four-year maximum prison term for assault plus three additional years for the causing of great bodily injury to Bolding. In addition, he will not be eligible for parole. Judge Hall has scheduled a hearing for May 14 in order to decide if Young Lee should pay restitution to Bolding.
Although he helped to found the highly successful frozen yogurt company with his ex-wife, Shelly Hwang, Lee’s involvement with Pinkberry ended in 2010. Pinkberry has over 170 stores throughout the world.
By Jennifer Pfalz