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Pinkberry co-founder pleads not guilty to assault

January 30, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The co-founder of the yogurt chain Pinkberry pleaded not guilty on Monday to assaulting a homeless man.

Young Lee, 47, appeared in court impeccably dressed in his designer suit and glasses.

He was arrested on Jan. 17 at Los Angeles International Airport as he returned from a trip to South Korea. He is accused of brutally assaulting a homeless man on June 15 near the off-ramp of the 101 Freeway at Vermont Avenue.

Lee was allegedly approached by the victim asking for money. Words were exchanged, and Lee and another man in a rented SUV chased the transient and then beat him with a tire iron.

Lee's defense attorney Philip Kent Cohen claimed the man made threats to his client as if he had a weapon, but police say it was a sexually explicit tattoo on the transient that triggered Lee to get out of his vehicle and go after the victim.

Prosecutors say Lee, a former kick boxer, viewed the tattoo as a sign of disrespect. He demanded the homeless man kneel and apologize, but even after the man consented, police say Lee allegedly proceeded to kick and beat him with the tire iron.

During the arraignment, a judge modified the terms of his $60,000 bail so he could make a trip to Korea later this month. Lee agreed to surrender his passport when he returns to court March 5 for a preliminary hearing.

Prosecutors had expressed concern that if Lee was allowed to travel to his native Korea, he would not return to the U.S.

But Lee's defense attorney Philip Kent Cohen argued that his client should be allowed to travel out of the country because his wife was due to give birth, and he had business that he needed to tend to.

Cohen went on to say his client was in Korea when he first learned of the case and immediately contacted the LAPD to inform police of his whereabouts. He returned to the U.S. of his own free will, knowing he would be taken into custody at LAX.

Lee faces up to seven years in state prison if convicted.

City News Service contributed to this story.