Pinkberry co-founder arrested for alleged assault

Pinkberry co-founder arrested for alleged assault (KTLA-TV)

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- Pinkberry yogurt co-founder Young Lee pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges he assaulted a transient.

According to the LAPD, Lee, 47, was driving a rented Range Rover on the Hollywood Freeway in June 2011 with an acquaintance in the passenger seat.

When he got off the freeway at Vermont Avenue, he spotted a transient who was asking drivers for money.

The man was changing into a sweatshirt, revealing a sexually explicit tattoo that apparently offended Lee, police officials said.

Officials did not provide a detailed description of the tattoo.

They said Lee rolled down his window and word were exchanged.

He then parked on Vermont and left his car to confront the man, police said.

Lee demanded that the man kneel and apologize, and the man consented, according to officials.

But Lee then chased him down, kicking him and "beating him down" with a tire iron, said LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon.

The victim, who was not identified, suffered a broken left forearm and cuts to his head, police said.

A witness called 911 and gave the license plate number of the car Lee was driving.

Investigators later recovered the tire iron from the rental car agency.

Lee was arrested in January at LAX by the LAX Fugitive Task Force upon returning from a trip overseas.

His attorney, Phillip Kent Cohen, has said that authorities' version of events is wrong.

He said there were six people in the Range Rover, not two, and that the transient "made explicit threats as if he had a weapon."

Lee faces up to four years in prison with the possibility of an additional three years for a special allegation of causing great bodily harm. He is currently free on $60,000 bail.

Lee founded Pinkberry with ex-wife Shelly Hwang in 2005. He ended his relationship to the chain in 2010.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Lee struggled for years with drug use, citing court documents, interviews and law enforcement officials.

Back in 2001, he was charged with felony possession of cocaine and two misdemeanor counts of battery of a spouse -- a woman who was not Hwang -- and carrying a loaded firearm.

He pleaded no contest to some of the charges and was sentenced to two days in jail and three years of probation.

Court records indicate that Lee was sober for a number of years, but he relapsed in 2009, the Times reports.

A man who identified himself as Lee's "former friend" filed for a restraining order against Lee in 2010, saying he had a violent temper and a gun collection, and had once swung a knife at him.

By that point, Lee was married to Hwang, and the friend said in a sworn statement that she had asked him for advice about Lee's drug relapse.

He said that Lee blamed him when Hwang filed for divorce, and he showed up at his home and threatened him.

A judge declined to issue a restraining order, citing insufficient evidence.

John Bae, the owner of a competitor called Kiwiberri, also sought a restraining order against Lee five years ago, according to the Times.

He alleged that Lee threatened to come to his home and kill him.

Lee denied the allegations. He said Bae was angry becasue he had accused him of opening a copycat business.

A judge ultimately denied the petition.