Three Korean Americans Convicted In Queens Karaoke Slaying

Photo Courtesy of Community Newspaper Group

by Hatt-Me Kim

After a five-week trial, a jury last week found four New York men guilty of gang assault on two men following an argument at a karaoke bar in October 2006.

One of the defendants was additionally found guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a result of one victim’s death.

With sentencing set for July 28, 21-year-old lead defendant Il Park faces up to 25 years in prison for the brutal beating death of 25-year-old Junghwa Lee. Aram Choi, 24, and Christopher Baez, 21, are both looking at up to 25 years in jail for each of their first- and second-degree gang assault convictions. John Bae, 21, faces up to 15 years in prison for his second- degree gang assault conviction.

A heated dispute occurred between a member of the defendants’ group and a friend of the victim’s around 4 a.m. on Oct. 8, 2006 at the Pastel Karaoke bar in Flushing, Queens, according to the Queens County District Attorney.

Lee and the other unnamed victim attempted to prevent the escalation of the volatile situation, and, in doing so, provoked the four defendants and 10 to 11 other individuals, whom police never apprehended, to attack the two men with “pipes, bats, hammers and fists.” The assault left both victims unconscious; Lee never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead a few hours later at Flushing Hospital.

“The defendants in this case showed no mercy toward their victims,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown, in a statement. “The verdicts justly hold the defendants accountable for their actions.”

A friend of the victim told the New York Times in 2006 that Lee was not a member of a gang and had no enemies. Lee was born in South Korea and graduated from Bayside High School and had worked at a cellphone store in Queens for the last two years prior to his death.

Lee, a Mets fan, had been celebrating the team’s playoff victory at Pastel Karaoke, according to the article.