Family asks: Why is son still jailed?
Portland Tribune, OR - 38 minutes ago
... As the Kims see it, their son's obsessions are rooted in the alienation he
suffered as a child growing up as both a Korean and a Jehovah's Witness in ...
Family asks: Why is son still jailed?
Parents of alleged panty thief say he's sick, not dangerous
By JIM REDDEN Issue date: Tue, Feb 8, 2005
Dong Kim was exhausted Saturday morning - but she still had a traditional Korean
lunch to fix as a thank-you for more than a dozen friends and neighbors.
Kim and her husband, Joo, had spent the previous two days in Washington and
Multnomah County courtrooms, watching as their son, Sung Koo Kim, appeared at
consecutive bail reduction hearings.
Sung Koo Kim - the so-called panty thief - is being held on numerous burglary and
theft charges for allegedly stealing thousands of pairs of womens underwear in
Benton, Multnomah, Yamhill and Washington counties. Kim, 30, also is charged with
possessing child pornography on his home computer in Washington County.
Kim's attorneys, the father-and-daughter team of Des and Shannon Connall, are
trying to get him released on bail before the trials are scheduled. Although
Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank Bearden cut Kim's bail from $10 million to
$800,000 Monday morning, the total amount - $4.38 million among all four counties
- is still far more than the Kim family can afford.
"That's moving in the right direction, but it is still too high," Dong Kim said
But the Connalls won another victory Monday when Bearden said that Kim is no
longer a suspect in the disappearance of Brooke Wilberger, the 19-year-old Utah
college student who vanished May 24.
Until then, Kim was the only named suspect in the apparent kidnapping. Now he is
just one of several people of interest in the baffling case. In his Monday
ruling, Bearden noted that Kim's bail was originally set at $10 million because
he was a suspect in the case at the time.
"It is now known that the defendant is not a suspect in the case so that reason
has been removed as a consideration for the high security amount," Bearden wrote.
On Saturday, despite being emotionally drained from the hearings, Kim's parents
wanted to thank the people who gathered at the family's suburban Tigard home for
their support in the months since their son's arrest. After preparing a large
selection of egg rolls, fried shrimp, seasoned beef, sautéed vegetables and
steamed rice, Dong Kim changed into a long black dress, joined her husband and
spoke to the guests gathered in the family room.
"Sung is not dangerous. He is someone who needs help," Dong Kim told those in
As the Kims see it, their son's obsessions are rooted in the alienation he
suffered as a child growing up as both a Korean and a Jehovah's Witness in
predominantly white Tigard and Beaverton. The Kims emigrated from South Korea
when Sung was 6 years old because they were worried about increasing military
tension with North Korea.
Dong Kim explained that Sung became more withdrawn as he grew older. She knew he
spent a lot of time in his room alone but only thought he was unwilling to look
for work. She said that her son, who has not been charged with a violent crime,
was a gentle person who does not even kill insects.
"He needs help, not punishment," she said Saturday.
Several of the Kims' guests nodded in agreement as Dong spoke. Steve Young, a
Nike manager who lives in the same neighborhood, said many parents can identify
with their plight. Gene and Carla Ernster, who live just across the street from
the Kims, faulted law enforcement officials for assuming Sung Koo Kim was
The Ernsters were especially upset that multiple law enforcement agencies staged
an early-morning, SWAT-style raid to arrest Kim on May 29. Gene Ernster said he
was awakened around 3 a.m. by an explosion used to blow open the Kims front
door. Although the door has been replaced, the wooden siding on the front porch
is still pockmarked by shrapnel.
"I opened my door to see what was happening and a SWAT officer stuck a gun in my
face and told me to get back inside. That's not what this country should be
about," said Ernster, a plumber who served three tours in the Vietnam War.
Last August, the Kims filed notice that they intend to sue the police for using
excessive force during the raid.
Bail amounts targeted
During Friday's hearing, the Connalls argued that prosecutors in all four
counties are violating Oregon laws requiring that "reasonable" bails be set for a
criminal suspect. They repeatedly told Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank
Bearden that Sung Koo Kim is only charged with theft and burglary in Multnomah
County, charges that usually result in low - if any - bail amounts.
And, they note, he has no previous criminal record.
The Connalls also suggested the alleged child pornography could have been
unintentionally downloaded along with legal images.
The two attorneys made the same argument in Washington County Circuit Court on
Thursday. At the end of the hearing, Judge Donald Letourneau reduced the bail
from $1.3 million to $480,000. A bail reduction hearing is set for later this
month in Yamhill County, where Kim's bail currently is set at $4 million.
If the Kims still cannot afford to post bail at the end of the hearings, the
Connalls can appeal the total amount to the Oregon Supreme Court.
In his ruling, Bearden suggested the Kims might be able to borrow money from the
Korean community, noting that his courtroom was filled with their supporters
Friday. They included representatives of the Korean Society of Oregon and the
Korean American Citizens League, some of whom also attended Saturday's lunch.
"We do not condone what he may have done, but we believe he should be treated the
same as everyone else," said society president David Kim (no relation) at the end
of Friday's hearing.
Signs of dangerous behavior?
Although Multnomah County prosecutors and Corvallis police now admit they cannot
tie Sung Koo Kim to Wilberger's disappearance, they still argue he is a threat to
the community. During Friday's hearing, Newberg Police Detective Todd Baltzell
testified that Kim collected personal information on at least two female
Concordia University students whose underwear he stole. Baltzell also testified
that Kim had downloaded from the Internet thousands of pictures of bound women
being tortured and mutilated.
Batzell also testified that Kim's computer included records of a Google search
for countries without extradition treaties with the United States.
Prosecutors will not discuss the details of the case while it is still pending.
But Frank Colistro believes he knows why they consider Sung dangerous.
Colistro is a Portland clinical psychologist who has studied hundreds of
convicted criminals. Although Colistro has no firsthand knowledge of Kim, he said
court records portray him as having many of the same characteristics as violent
sex offenders. According to Colistro, most serial sex criminals also are obsessed
with pornography and collect "trophies" of the people they stalk, rape or kill.
"They're predators. An avid hunter might have a trophy room, and so do these
people," Colistro said.
Examples cited by Colistro include Jerome Brudos, a convicted Salem serial killer
who collected women's high-heeled shoes, and Jeffrey Gorton, convicted of murder
in Michigan in 2002 and who was also obsessed with stealing women's underwear.
In his ruling, Bearden called Sung Koo Kim "bizarre and unpredictable" and said
he posed "more than the usual danger" to the community, especially the female
college students whose underwear he is accused of stealing.