L.A. council candidate faced attempted rape charge that was dismissed

LA council candidate was charged with attempted rape in case later dismissed

Thirteen years ago, Los Angeles City Council candidate David Ryu faced a charge of attempted rape that was dismissed after the prosecution said it was unable to proceed with the case, court records show.

Ryu pleaded not guilty to the charges. In a statement Monday, he said, "It was a shock to be accused of something I did not do, and I would never do."

Attorney Mark Kim, who represented Ryu at the time, said in a separate statement the case had been dismissed before even reaching a preliminary hearing.

The charges, filed in September 2002, were dismissed two months later when the district attorney’s office said it was unable to proceed within the required time, court records show. It wasn’t clear from the publicly available court file why prosecutors felt they could not move forward with the case.  

Ryu, a community health center development director, is one of two candidates competing to represent L.A.’s Council District 4, which stretches from Sherman Oaks to the Miracle Mile. He is vying for the seat against Carolyn Ramsay, who served as chief of staff to termed-out Councilman Tom LaBonge.

In August 2002, when Ryu was 27, he was accused of attempting to rape an unconscious person, identified only as Jane Doe, according to the criminal complaint filed in the case. The Times hasn’t identified or interviewed the alleged victim.     

Court records provide little detail about the allegations, and court officials said they were unable to produce transcripts for most of the hearings in the case.

Kim, the attorney who represented Ryu, said in his statement that when the incident occurred, Ryu was with a group of people who had recently met and were out drinking and partying at a bar.

Ryu and his date were in the backseat of a car where they "had gone seeking privacy" when another woman interrupted them, "jumping to a very grave and devastating conclusion," Kim wrote. The attorney said that the other woman was Ryu's "original date" that night.

The police were called and interviewed people there individually and separately, but no arrests were made that night, Kim said.

Kim said that later that morning the woman who had interrupted Ryu and his date took the alleged victim to the hospital for an exam and police were called. The alleged victim said she could not remember what happened the night before due to intoxication, Kim said.

"At that point, the third party female -- not the alleged victim -- filed a complaint against my client and he was arrested," Kim wrote.

The Los Angeles Police Department declined to provide basic information on the arrest, including the time and location. 

Ryu posted $50,000 bail and was ordered not to have contact with the alleged victim, court records show. 

Superior Court Judge Hilleri Merritt, a former district attorney's office prosecutor who was assigned to the case in 2002, said she could not recall details of the case. Superior Court Judge David Horwitz, who presided over the case at the time, also said he could not recall details.

The case was dismissed under a section of the California penal code that sets time requirements for bringing defendants to trial. The prosecutor was “unable to proceed within the statutory period,” the records show.

“It’s a typical catchall dismissal,” Loyola Law School professor Stan Goldman said of the code section that the case was dismissed under. Speaking generally, he said, such dismissals “can be for any number of reasons,” including being unable to locate witnesses or bring a police officer to court.

Kim, the attorney, said the case was dismissed because "conflicting evidence" emerged after it was filed. He claimed the medical exam of the alleged victim gave "no reason to believe she had been unconscious."

Eventually, the attorney asserted, another female witness who was friends with both women filed an affidavit "which cast doubt on the memory and interpretation" of what happened that night.

The Ryu campaign said it could not put The Times in touch with others who could corroborate the account provided by Kim. Kim said he did not have the affidavit or any other files tied to the case because it was so old.

The Ramsay campaign declined to comment on the charge filed and dismissed against Ryu.

Ryu said in his statement he was devastated by the accusation and had to give up his chance to serve in the Peace Corps as he waited for the case to be resolved.

"However, I have long since put this behind me," Ryu said. "I don’t believe there was any malicious intent [n the part of the accuser], and I have not seen nor spoken to the other parties for many years."

"I don’t think it’s appropriate to disrupt their lives just because I’ve chosen to run for public office," he concluded in a written statement.

Times staff writer Soumya Karlamangla contributed to this report.

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