'Sexually explicit' tattoo described in Pinkberry beating case
Pinkberry co-founder Young Lee, who is facing a felony charge that he beat a homeless man with a tire iron, has told police the incident was sparked by the alleged victim's tattoo, which he found offensive.
L.A. prosecutors have described the tattoo only as "sexually explicit" in nature. But a law enforcement source told The Times the tattoo was of a man and woman having sex.
The source said detectives believe Lee was angered when the transient revealed the tattoo and that prompted him to get out of his car, chase down and beat the man.
Lee's attorney, Philip Kent Cohen, tells a significantly different story. He said the transient "made explicit threats as if he had a weapon, which he may have had."
"As the evidence comes out, the reality will be much different than has been presented," Cohen said. "All of the people in the car felt at risk and felt threatened."
According to the Los Angeles Police Department, Lee was driving a rented Range Rover on the 101 Freeway in June 2011, with an acquaintance in the passenger seat. When he got off the freeway at Vermont Avenue in East Hollywood, he spotted a transient who had been asking passing drivers for money.
The man was changing into a sweatshirt, revealing a sexually explicit tattoo, and Lee seemed to have viewed the tattoo as a suggestion of disrespect, a police official said. Lee rolled down his window and apparently got into an argument with the man, then parked on Vermont and left his car to confront him.
Lee demanded, officials said, that the man kneel and apologize, and the man consented. But Lee attacked him anyway, chasing him down, kicking him and "beating him down" with a tire iron, said LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of the Central Detective Division.
A witness called 911 and gave authorities the license plate number of the car Lee was driving. Investigators later recovered the tire iron through the rental car agency. While detectives worked the case, Lee traveled overseas, spending some of his time in South Korea, authorities said.
-- Scott Gold, Andrew Blankstein and Victoria Kim
Photo: Young Lee, co-founder of Pinkberry, is charged with attacking a homeless man with a tire iron. He is pictured in his studio in Los Angeles in 2007. Credit: Armando Arorizo / Bloomberg News