A former masseur accused of molesting clients at a Shelton spa applied for a diversionary program that could have seen the charges against him dismissed.
But a Derby Superior Court judge denied the application Friday (Feb. 2) after citing the number of victims — eight — who alleged the masseur, Hyungchan Kim, had violated them.
Judge Peter Brown said that “the matters are too serious” for him to grant Kim’s application to the program, called accelerated rehabilitation.
Shelton police arrested Kim in July 2016 after receiving complaints from two women that Kim touched them inappropriately during massages at the Coco Spa on Bridgeport Avenue.
Six additional women came forward with complaints about Kim in the ensuing weeks.
He faces a total of eight counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison.
Kim, a resident of Queens, N.Y., was fired from the salon after police informed the owner he didn’t have a license to practice massage therapy, according to an arrest warrant.
None of the victims appeared in court Friday, but Victim’s Advocate Keith Wortz told Judge Brown he had been able to contact five of them regarding Kim’s application for accelerated rehabilitation.
“All of them are adamantly opposed to the AR application,” Wortz said, noting that Kim’s alleged inappropriate behavior spanned six months — from November 2015 to May 2016.
“It was certainly not a momentary lapse of reason,” he said.
Prosecutor Paul Gaetano also opposed Kim’s application, citing the victims’ objections and the nature of the charges.
“The state does not feel (accelerated rehabilitation) is appropriate,” Gaetano said.
Kim’s lawyer, Sung-Ho Hwang, said Kim had done massage therapy in New York for two decades without any complaints.
“He has never been arrested prior to theses arrests,” he said. “He’s been doing this for 20 years and nobody’s ever complained previously.”
Kim did not speak during the hearing Friday.
Hwang said he had advised Kim not to say anything because Kim has a green card to live in the U.S. and feared immigration officials could use any incriminating statements to deport him.
The lawyer assured the judge Kim would no longer perform massages.
“He has no intention to ever take up massage again,” Hwang said.
It wasn’t enough to convince the judge to grant Kim’s application.
He noted that, for defendants to take part in accelerated rehabilitation, a judge has to find that they’re unlikely to offend again — and that their alleged crimes aren’t serious.
“Looking at the number of alleged victims . . . the court is going to find that the matters are too serious to grant accelerated rehabilitation,” Judge Brown said.
Immediately afterward, Hwang asked to withdraw from the case as Kim’s lawyer.
He said he and Kim had a communication breakdown and couldn’t agree on a strategy in the case going forward.
He also said he’s a solo practitioner who can’t handle what could potentially be eight jury trials in the cases.
The judge granted Hwang’s motion to withdraw.
He ordered the cases put on the courthouse’s trial list and told Kim to find a new lawyer.
“You’re going to need to take some time to hire new counsel,” Judge Brown said. “You’ll be notified when the matter is called in for trial.”