By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pinkberry co-founder Young Lee, who brought a sleek design to the international yogurt chain, was found guilty on Friday of assault with a deadly weapon for beating a homeless man with a tire iron at a Los Angeles freeway off-ramp in 2011, prosecutors said.
The attack occurred in June 2011 when Young, a South Korean kick boxer-turned-architect who parted ways with the frozen yogurt chain in 2010, got out of a Range Rover at an off-ramp of a Los Angeles freeway and beat the transient with a tire iron.
Young, who could face up to seven years in prison when he is sentenced in January, apparently believed the man had disrespected him and his then-fiancee by exposing a sexually explicit tattoo, said Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Jane Robison.
The 12-person jury, which was split evenly between men and women, deliberated just over a day in Los Angeles Superior Court before reaching a verdict.
The jury found the attack had caused great bodily injury to the victim, Donald Bolding, who suffered a broken left forearm and cuts to his head in the attack, the District Attorney's Office said in a statement.
In testimony during a preliminary hearing last year, the homeless man, Bolding, said Young approached him and accused him of being disrespectful, according to City News Service.
"I'm befuddled. I'm like, 'What are you talking about?' That's when he hits me with the tire iron," Bolding testified.
This was not the first criminal case for Young, 49. In 2001, he pleaded no contest to felony possession of cocaine and a misdemeanor charge of carrying a loaded firearm and was sentenced to two days in jail and three years of probation, Robison said.
An attorney for Young, who co-founded Pinkberry in 2005 with his former wife, entrepreneur Shelly Hwang, did not return a call or e-mail seeking comment.
"Mr. Young Lee has no involvement with Pinkberry, our partners or our more than 250 stores worldwide," Laura Jakobsen, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a statement. "Pinkberry ended its ties with Mr. Lee formally in 2010."
Jakobsen declined to comment on whether Young, who was arrested in January 2012 after arriving in Los Angeles on a flight from South Korea, retains any ownership stake in the privately held company.
He was trained at Parson The New School for Design in New York and brought a sleek, modern architecture to the company that helped attract celebrities and hipsters alike to its locations. Pinkberry, a franchise business, spawned a number of frozen yogurt imitators.
Young at one point had a home in Malibu, in Southern California, Robison said. The property was sold in October 2012 for over $3 million, according to a public listing.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)