BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A California man convicted of kidnapping an 11-year-old Idaho girl could be released from prison after five to seven months if he successfully completes a treatment program.
Third District Judge Randall Grove on Tuesday sentenced Brian Sangjoon Lee to up to 10 years in prison, but retained jurisdiction and said Sangjoon could be released from prison and placed on probation before 2023 if he completes the Idaho Department of Correction program, the Idaho Statesman reported.
The treatment program is designed for low-risk offenders and is administered in prison over a five- to seven-month span. Offenders who successfully complete the program are placed on probation rather than finishing their prison terms.
Lee pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping in exchange for prosecutors reducing the charge from first-degree kidnapping. Second-degree kidnapping carries a maximum penalty of up to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors said the 20-year-old Lee traveled from a Los Angeles suburb to Idaho in August 2021 after making arrangements with the girl through an online gaming program. The child was found at a Nampa hotel after police searched her cell phone and found she'd been in communication with Lee's California phone number.
Deputy Canyon County Prosecutor Shari Dodge said Lee took the girl after she told him that she was being abused by her family. Lee's defense attorney, Michael Jacques, said the child was lying about being abused.
“The bottom line is this is every parent’s nightmare,” Dodge said during the sentencing. “We can debate whether (the child) may have some blame in this — but I come back to the fact that she was 11.”
Toward the end of the roughly 90-minute sentencing hearing, Lee read a prepared statement in which he stated regret for “every part” of the “worst decision” he’s ever made.
“I would like to deeply apologize to the victim and the victim’s family for all the stress and pain that I caused them,” Lee said. “And I would also like to deeply apologize to my loving parents and family for getting myself in this situation.”
The judge said Lee was young and naïve, and placing him directly on probation would not be helpful for his rehabilitation.
“It is noble to want to help someone else, to save someone else, but it’s foolish to do it the wrong way,” Grove said in court. “You were absolutely foolish in this case.”