New York pianist Min Suh is cleared of sex assault

New York pianist Min Suh is cleared of sex assault


norman lebrecht

November 24, 2014

In March last year, Hyung-Min Suh made tabloid headlines when he was arrested for allegedly molesting a female pupil inside his Lincoln Center teaching room.

The local tabloids had a field day with the salacious details, some of them deposed in emails before the court. Hyung-Min Suh was 22 at the time of the alleged incidents. His pupil was 16.

The case, we learn, never went to trial.

The original six charges – including sexual harassment, harassment, etc. were dropped by the prosecution on October 6, 2014. In order to achieve swift closure, Hyung-Min Suh was advised by his attorney to plead guilty to non-criminal, non-sexual harassment (code 240.26). The court accepted his plea and granted a conditional discharge. This leaves Hyung-Min Suh with no criminal record.

What passed between the pianist and his pupil behind closed doors at the Lincoln Center must remain obscure, but they were fairly close in age and apparently in conflict over a number of issues. The only determinable outcome is that Hyung-Min Suh was not guilty of sexual misconduct.

It is important the matter should be reported since a tabloid newspaper has refused to take down its original article and the pianist’s prospects are being damaged by its allegations, which have been dismissed by the court.

Hyung-Min Suh (pictured right) makes his first appearance this week in Britain, at a piano competition in Manchester. The judges there should take care not to be prejudiced by what might come their way in an online search. Hyung-Min Suh is innocent, ok?


min suh


  • wwender says:

    Your unbearably coy post forced me to do a google search and read the article you refer to a dozen times.

    Are the text messages quoted at length in the article verifiably his? If so, he’s certainly guilty of being a creep.

    Also, calling a 16 year old and a 22 year old “fairly close in age” – as what, a means of downplaying the seriousness of what may have happened? – is pretty bonkers. You go through about as much emotional development between 16 and 22 as you do between 22 and 65. That’s mainly why it’s illegal for 16 year olds to have sex with 22 year olds in New York.

    Also, you say the tabloid has “refused” to take down their article. Was this a request made by you? If not you, then who? How else would you know that they have refused to take it down, if you were not privy to the conversation? And why should they take it down; is there anything patently false in the article? What law has the newspaper broken, what have they violated other than your notion of good taste? The newspapers didn’t make any allegations; the prosecutors did, and the newspaper merely reported them (colorfully, as tabloids do in America. And in the UK, too!).

    Perhaps Mr Suh should have gone through with a trial to clear his name, since you evidently think there’s still an unfair stain on it. I wonder why he plead out, since as you say, he is innocent, ok?

  • anon says:

    I’ve also read the tabloid article “a dozen times”, and I must say I beg to differ. The text messages are pretty bad, but I wonder what the girl’s replies were all along. If he actually molested the girl, then why did the court ultimately decide to drop all those charges despite all those creepy text messages? We live in 21st Century, and 16-year-olds are not what they used to be.

    And of course, NY Post reporters are such qualified and educated reporters to use the words like “busted” and “kinky.”

    The article only reports on the allegations, and as far as we know, allegations are merely allegations. If something really did happen between those two kids, whether consensual or not, I doubt the American legal system would have let Suh just walk away without any criminal record.

    What bothers me the most is that you automatically assume the 16-year-old girl and the 22-year-old man had sex.

    People should really think before they write… If they are capable of thinking on a higher level.

    • JAMA11 says:

      16 year olds are not what they used to be! Well, then, we must change the law, as quickly as possible!

      Also, yes, his texts are bad. Let us imagine what hers must have been like! Surely the victim is somehow guilty of something, right? I bet she was even asking for it!

      Plea deals, as you may know, are the resolution for the overwhelming majority of all criminal inquiries in the US. You can literally kill someone and if the circumstances are right, you can take a plea for something else and get out of jail in 5 years. It’s how our court systems have chosen to address the humungous cost of trials and the enormous backlogs. To say “well the court wouldn’t have let him take this plea if they thought he was really guilty!” is extraordinarily (really, truly extraordinarily) naive.

      Also, where do I assume they had sex? I simply said that to do so would be illegal. And I only brought it up to highlight how distasteful Norman’s comments about them being “close in age” are. As far as I know, he was never charged with rape. Rather odd that this would bother you so much.

      Also odd that you would call the Post reporters “qualified and educated.” Your main strategy in conversation seems to be to imagine things that your interlocutor might have said, and then respond to those, rather than to things that actually were said.

      • anon says:

        Well, I never said he’s completely innocent. We don’t know what all those 6 charges exactly were; however, I find it odd that all 6 were dropped, at least according to Norman. Honestly, I’ve never seen a plea deal in America where the defendant just walks away with no criminal record. If Suh actually kept doing horrendous things to that young girl – an under-aged girl – why did the prosecution agree to settle for what Norman calls a “non-criminal, non-sexual harassment”?

        From when you say “our” court systems, I assume you are an American? Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought Americans regard under-age sexual activity as something gravely serious. I faintly remember Norman’s article a year ago about this, I also saw the NY Post article, and the reason I was surprised when I saw this article was because Suh basically got a slap on the wrist. If Suh indeed chased after her and kept sending her those disturbing texts at the least, then there is no way “your” court systems, which “have chosen to address the humungous cost of trials and the enormous backlogs”, would have just settled for that. Of course, this is merely my personal opinion.

        I just think it is necessary to at least try to look at both sides of the argument. NY Post clearly reported solely on the allegations. That’s just one side of the story. As listeners, we should always (try to) avoid being biased and swayed by biased reporting, which the tabloids are notorious for.

        You also mention, in the very first comment, “Mr Suh should have gone through with a trial to clear his name”. Then you explain about how plea deals “are the resolution for the overwhelming majority of all criminal inquiries in the US” in your second comment. Perhaps Mr. Suh did not want to go through with a trial to clear his name but simply went along with the overwhelming majority, perhaps because that’s just how things go over there. Time? Money? “Humungous costs”? I have no idea; only Suh and his attorney would know.

        And I must say that your example of murder with the plea deal system is extraordinarily (really, truly extraordinarily) inappropriate and rather unfitting in this circumstance. Like you said, the pianist was never charged with rape. I do agree, however, that Norman’s comments about “close in age” are bollocks.

        • JAMA11 says:

          First off, apologies that my handle keeps changing. It seems to seesaw back and forth from one to the other (not sure why) and I hadn’t been paying attention to it.

          I am American, and I can tell you, our system of plea bargaining is a disgrace. It doesn’t matter how damning the evidence may be; if there isn’t a real media circus (an article in the Post doesn’t count), the lawyers can get away with a lot.

          Courts are extremely harsh on child molesters, but you don’t see the same sort of general firestorm directed at people in this circumstance, where the victim is over, say, 15; the exception is when the abuser is a schoolteacher or family member. In many states, where the age of consent is 16 or even 14, this wouldn’t even be a crime (other than the harassment, of course…)

          Also, I didn’t say Suh should have gone through a trial. I said that by Norman’s logic, Suh should have gone through a trial in order to clear what Norman obviously believes to be his stainless reputation.

          My example of murder has nothing to do with Suh. I was merely illustrating that plea bargains are common even in extreme situations, which is hardly extraordinary.

  • Nick says:

    Without specific reference to this case, whenever anyone under legal age is involved, almost invariably only one side of a complaint/case is aired. Sometimes the alleged offender may actually be guilty, as has been seen recently in the UK with a number of well-known personalities. But sometimes the allegations are simply untrue, brought against an individual for any number of reasons. The trouble is that once an allegation of this sort has been made public – not always limited to just names and photos but often with the addition of lurid details, some people then adopt a general assumption of ‘there’s no smoke without fire’. No matter how innocent of the alleged offence, the accused is already guilty in their eyes. Yet the justice system in most countries is supposed to provide an accused with a presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

    Of course Mr. Suh could have elected to go to trial. Yet a public trial of this nature merely adds further fuel to the flames already burning. And should any similarly accused be found not guilty, how does he (or she) undo all the years of damage the case may cause to career and reputation?

  • Peter says:

    I know this case very well, and I would like to confirm the following facts. The case never went to trial. There was no criminal conviction. The case was never about sexual harassment. The six criminal charges were dropped by the DA, with a plea bargain that ended up as 1 violation for non-criminal, non-sexual harassment. Personally speaking, I know Hyung-Min to be a good person, and I hope that eventually he can put this troubling time behind him and get on with a fabulous career as a concert pianist.