Flushing man admits to hate crimes charges for violent assaults on two women

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A 35-year-old Flushing resident has pleaded guilty to robbing and assaulting two Chinese women in violent attacks that were classified as hate crimes, according to prosecutors.

Key S. Lee, 35, of Hawthorne Avenue pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree robbery as a hate crime on Dec. 1, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 18, and Lee faces five years in prison, followed by five years of post-release supervision.

According to the charges, Lee, who is Korean, approached two Chinese women who were alone in public on separate occasions and assaulted and robbed them.

The first victim told investigators that, on Jan. 27, 2016, she was cleaning snow from her vehicle following a snowstorm when she spotted Lee standing on a nearby corner smoking a cigarette. She continued removing snow from her car when Lee suddenly rushed over, pushed her into the back seat, covered her body with his and closed the door behind him, prosecutors said.

The defendant began repeatedly punching the victim and grabbed her purse, which contained a credit card, identification and $2,000 in cash. He then fled the scene.

After being shown surveillance footage of the incident by authorities, Lee admitted that he was the attacker, prosecutors said. He told investigators that he was angry following an argument with his wife and that he used to be a cab driver; the majority of his customers, he claimed, were Chinese.

In the second incident, according to prosecutors, Lee assaulted and robbed another female victim on Feb. 10, 2016. The defendant told prosecutors that he was driving home when the victim cut him off in traffic and failed to signal. He then proceeded to follow the victim, who parked her car and began walking toward her apartment building.

Lee followed her on foot and pounced on her, punching her in the face and running off with her handbag, which contained credit cards, I.D. and $2,000, according to Brown.

“In pleading guilty, the defendant has now admitted to attacking the two Asian women because of his hatred for Chinese people,” Brown said. “The defendant, who is Korean, spotted each woman when she was alone in public and pounced upon them — punching them in the face and then stealing their cash and credit cards. This kind of bigotry and hate are not acceptable in a civilized society and will not be tolerated in Queens County. The defendant’s guilty plea is another example of our refusal to accept this type of behavior.”