A Woodland Hills man was ordered to stand trial Thursday on charges of abducting his estranged girlfriend, and then severely beating her with a metal rod and sexually assaulting her.
"This is one of the most heinous crimes I have ever seen," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Carole Chizever, who has prosecuted criminal cases for 10 years.
After hearing two days of testimony from the 23-year-old woman, who said she was hospitalized for five days due to her injuries, Van Nuys Municipal Judge Robert L. Swasey said there was enough evidence to warrant a trial for Michael Kyung Lim on five felony counts.
Lim, 19, is charged with kidnaping for sexual purposes, torture, rape, forcible oral copulation and corporal injury to a spouse, which also applies to girlfriends.
The woman, who recently came from Korea under a student visa, testified that she was held against her will at Lim's Owensmouth Avenue apartment from the morning of April 2 until he took her to a supermarket the next day. Lim, she testified, wanted her to buy food to make him dinner that night, and "he said that if I cooked it untastefully I would get hit more," she said through an interpreter.
At the market, she escaped from Lim by running up to an employee and begging, in broken English, for help, she testified.
Police reports at the time said that employees and other shoppers held Lim until officers arrived and arrested him.
While admitting the woman suffered a severe beating that cannot be justified, defense attorney Harland Braun characterized the case as "a garden-variety beating between lovers."
The woman testified she was beaten on March 19 and April 3. Braun said both incidents were the result of jealous rages caused by suspicions that the woman was seeing other men.
"Does it take a rocket scientist to figure out what's going on here?" Braun asked Swasey at one point.
"It takes a rocket scientist to figure out what's going on in the defendant's mind," the judge shot back.
Braun unsuccessfully argued that everything but the corporal injury charge should be dismissed, but he was able to convince Swasey to lower Lim's bail from $2 million to $750,000
The woman, who came to the United States to study at UCLA, testified that during the April attack she was struck countless times during a four- to five-hour period with a metal rod--identified by Braun as part of a frame from a mirror. She said Lim also used a kitchen knife to cut off most of her hair.
Throughout her testimony, the woman looked away from the defendant's table, where Lim quietly sat with a bowed head, dressed in blue jail-issued clothes.
Braun said the April beating occurred after Lim observed two men following his car, and one of the men waved to the woman. The lawyer said he believes Lim is guilty of an assault, but not torture.
Prosecutors disagree. There is a "mean, perverse, sadistic thread" running through Lim's behavior, according to Chizever.
Lim is scheduled to appear in Superior Court for an arraignment May 19.