D.A. Vance Announces Restorative Justice Resolution in Homicide of Dr. Young Kun Kim


December 5, 2019

Matthew Lee Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Manslaughter Following Meaningful Participation in Restorative Justice Session with the Family of Dr. Young Kun Kim

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the sentencing of MATTHEW LEE, 52, to 10 years in prison with 5 years of post-release supervision for robbing 87-year-old Lehman College professor, Dr. Young Kun Kim and knocking him to the ground, resulting in his death. On August 14, 2019, LEE pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to Manslaughter in the First Degree and Robbery in the First Degree. As a part of the plea, LEE agreed to meaningfully participate in a face-to-face restorative justice session with Dr. Kim’s family.

“Traditional criminal prosecutions offer few opportunities to amplify victims’ voices or allow for engagement between survivors and the accused,” said District Attorney Vance. “Today’s sentencing proves that even in homicide cases, restorative justice is a meaningful way to empower survivors while offering both parties an opportunity to engage, understand, heal, and move forward. I thank the prosecutors in this case for providing an opportunity to foster this important dialogue. I also thank the Kim family, who was open-minded to the concept of restorative justice, and whose strength and compassion throughout this process was truly moving. While this resolution will not bring Dr. Young Kun Kim back, I am grateful that the Kims found a measure of comfort and healing through telling their stories.”

As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea, on May 13, 2018, LEE walked into a bank vestibule on Broadway between West 96th and West 97th Streets. The defendant observed Dr. Kim withdraw $300 in cash from an ATM and then attempted to take the money. Dr. Kim resisted and fell to the ground in the ensuing struggle, hitting his head on the floor. Dr. Kim was transported to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his head injuries four days later.

In a first of its kind for the D.A.’s Office in a homicide case, the defendant completed one restorative justice session, with meaningful participation, as a component of his sentence. The session utilized a restorative justice circle aimed at creating space for open dialogue between participants, and consisted of the defendant and his sister, Dr. Kim’s son and daughter-in-law, and a social worker acting as a mediator.

The mediator facilitated a collective discussion that addressed the impact of the crime, centered the needs of the victims, and offered an opportunity to repair harm between the participants. During the session, LEE demonstrated remorse for his crimes, accountability for his actions, and empathy for the harmed parties. Additionally, the parties discussed underlying factors that led LEE to commit the crime.

Expanding Access to Restorative Justice

Beginning in January 2020, the Office will offer restorative justice sessions in a range of cases to empower survivors and encourage defendant accountability through face-to-face interactions that are not possible in traditional court settings.

Through the Office’s $7 million resource center in Manhattan Criminal Court, New Yorkers charged with misdemeanor offenses, including assault, criminal mischief, hate crimes, and non-intimate partner crimes of domestic violence, among other offenses, can participate in restorative justice sessions in lieu of a jail sentence. Dispositions may also include restitution, community service, social services or counseling and other individually tailored elements that best suit the defendant and the crime committed, and best serve the victim and community.

The Office will also introduce restorative justice as a component of sentences for individuals convicted of violent crimes in Manhattan Supreme Court. Restorative justice may be combined with a sentence to jail or prison or offered as a part of an alternative to incarceration disposition.

Assistant D.A.s Dafna Yoran, Senior Trial Counsel for Trial Bureau 70, and Elizabeth Clerkin handled the prosecution of the case under the supervision of Executive Assistant D.A. John Irwin, Chief of the Trial Division. Trial Preparation Assistant Kathryn Sachs and Analyst Sasha Hodson also assisted with the case.

District Attorney Vance thanked the NYPD for its assistance with the investigation, particularly Sergeant Taiyuen Lee of the 24th Precinct; Detective Mourad Arslanbeck of the 24th Precinct Detective Squad; and Detective Mark Worthington and Lieutenant Patrick Brown of the Manhattan North Homicide Squad.

Defendant Information:

MATTHEW LEE, D.O.B. 10/3/1967

New York, NY

Convicted:

  • Manslaughter in the First Degree, a class B felony, 1 count
  • Robbery in the First Degree, a class B felony, 1 count

Sentenced:

  • 10 years in state prison
  • 5 years of post-release supervision
  • Restorative justice session