A Cleveland Orchestra violinist testifies against his robbers

Yun-Ting Lee, a member of the Cleveland Orchestra’s second violins, gave evidence yesterday at the trial of three teenagers who robbed his house and stole his car, which contained an $18,000 Karinkanta violin and an $20,000 Voirm bow.

One robber got eight years, another five.

The violinist and his husband had been held at gunpoint through the ordeal.

More here.

photo: cleveland.com

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  • 1) There is a lot to comment on this — the socio-cultural-economics of the whole affair, not the least of which is the racial aspect — but in particular that young black teens are being sent to prison (8 years?!) and their lives destroyed for what harm to the victims?

    None, they got roughed up a bit, probably the scare of their lives, but they are fine, they even got their violin and bow back. What good will sending these teens to prison for 5 to 8 years do for the victims, or for society?

    (I mean, given the absolute harm of prison, they’d be better off given 8 years of indentured servitude to the Cleveland Orchestra which would include mandatory attendance to every concert and reading all the program notes.)

    2) But the thing that most struck me about the incident was this:

    “Lee, who had since gone upstairs, came down to check on the commotion. He saw (the robber) holding (his spouse) at gunpoint and ran back upstairs and climbed out a window onto his roof to escape. (Another robber) chased after him and grabbed Lee by his button-up shirt and ripped it off of him. Lee leapt onto the roof of a neighbor’s house and escaped.”


    • Anon, let’s see how you feel with an amped up teen holding a gun to your head as well as to a family member. What the hell is wrong with you?! Bet you’re writing a different comment then.

      • Do you think you (or your son or your grandson) should spend 8 years in prison because you (or they) held a gun to someone’s head?

        Do you think you could survive 8 years in prison?

        Do you think you’ll come out of prison a better person?

        Do you think your victim is better off because you spent 8 years in prison?

        • If you hold a gun to someone’s head your will never be a “better person”. Lock them up and take away the key. Or use them to test out how many bullets are in a gun’s chamber while it’s aimed at their heads. Unless we break the cycle of guns being part of everyday life there will just be more of this kind of crap that the rest of us have to deal with. I suppose you (idiot anon) think we have the right to carry concealed hand guns too? I hope these gunmen get out soon and visit you someday.

    • I would’ve worked out a deal, with the approval of the judge and the prosecutor and participation of the orchestra, where I’d decline to press charges (because it’s the minimum sentencing in the US that is the big problem) in exchange for some sort of punishment / rehabilitation befitting the real harm to me and the real good that the teens could actually benefit from and the real contribution back to the community. Failing such a deal, I would’ve declined to cooperate with the prosecution, period.

      The US is a penal state. It makes up about 5% of the world’s population and has 21% of the world’s prisoners. And blacks constitute 34% of the total correctional population. The US is a racist penal state.

      Can one be a member of an institution (an orchestra) that regularly proclaims itself to represent the highest values of that community (Cleveland which is majority black) and still collaborate in perpetuating the worst values of that society?

      • The victims are mu close friends. They were almost murdered by a gang that scoped out their house and planned an armed invasion. The perpetrators rang my friends’ doorbell and asked for “directions to their grandmothers’ house”. Subsequently, my friends were pistol-whipped, held at gunpoint, and chased through their house. This was worse than a horror movie. My friends almost died. You think these perpetrators should get a slap on the wrist? You think they should get lollipops and orchestra tickets? Their extreme anti-social behavior unequivocally requires that they be isolated from society for a long, long time. Did you read their list of prior convictions?! You moron.

      • One of the things about “the rule of law” is that the victims don’t get to dictate what the punishment is, even if violins were involved.

        Endless abuses and corruptions and inequities on both ends of the harshness scale would be happening if such were the case.

        We have defined crimes and defined punishments with the aim of “equality under the law”.

        It doesn’t work perfectly but I’ll note that the 8 year sentence in this case is not much more than the sentence would be in Norway (often touted as a model for humane judicial results)… 6 years.

    • What are you, an idiot? They held someone at gunpoint! An appropriate punishment for these goblins would be to cut out their eyes so that they cannot see which direction to point a gun in the future.

    • “mandatory attendance to every concert and reading all the program notes”

      Anon, if you think these kids can understand classical music and program notes, you’re hopelessly naive.

    • The reason that robbery with a firearm is a heavier charge than robbery is that when things go wrong, the consequences are likely to be more severe. In my youth in Chicago I was robbed at gunpoint twice and shot at, randomly I assume, once. In both of the robberies (one in a store by three people holding two guns, the other on the street by two people with one gun), the robbers were noticeably nervous. In the store they started waving their guns and yelling because they thought that the other employee had escaped (I was large and he was crouching behind me). The teenagers in this story were subject to sentencing minimums that are high because of the weapon.

      As for the two teenagers who were sentenced, they weren’t new to this. One, a 17-year-old, had previous convictions on “felonious assault, obstructing official business, disorderly conduct, assault and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.” The other, a 15-year-old, has only one prior conviction.

      So yea, sure, you have competing failures of the American system: a non-rehabilitative prison system, extreme poverty, and enough firearms to fill the Atlantic Ocean.

      But what makes no sense in your comment is minimizing the harm to the victims. I don’t know about you, but I really hated having handguns pointed at my face an arm length’s away and I really really hated being shot at; both were worse than the times I was robbed at knifepoint. Having your home invaded by armed punks, who take your stuff and appear willing to take your life, is traumatizing. Give it a try. You’ll see what I mean.

    • Very telling responses: vengeful, punitive, retaliatory, unforgiving, angry invectives, even incitation to violence…

      If this were a social experiment on the lifelong effects of classical music on people, I would say this: Don’t play Mozart to your babies.

    • If you wave a gun at anyone and it’s not to defend yourself, you should be sent to prison for a long time.

  • I personally know Yun-Ting and he’s one of the nicest and hard working guys I know. Such a nice guy.

  • So much for the husband running off without trying to intervene. Bet that causes some domestic recrimination going forwards

  • ==So yea, sure, you have competing failures of the American system: a non-rehabilitative prison system, extreme poverty, and enough firearms to fill the Atlantic Ocean.

    Perfect – says it all !

  • 1: If the perpetrators were white kids from a good family, the data suggests that the penalty would have been rather less severe.
    2: Like it or not, the guilty parties will be out of jail at some point. A rational system, rather than fixating on revenge, would try to create a penal system which minimizes the chance that the ex cons will return to a life of crime. The US system is clearly terrible at this; our recidivism rate is much worse than virtually any First World peer. Countries with less draconian sentences, more humane, prison conditions, and a real system in place to teach prisoners both skills and life skills to navigate life outside of prison have far better results.

    So if you want to punish kids for being evil, the US system is the paradigm for you. If you actually want to make the country safer, though, it is a disaster. The commenters on this board who are all but salivating at the prospect of making the criminals suffer are foolish and dispiriting.

    • Er…prison not about revenge. It is there to punish and to deter others from committing an offense. Rehabilitation is only something that becomes of interest when people are nearing the end of their sentence.

      • It clearly does a poor job of deterring others! And maybe if the rehabilitation started earlier, it wouldn’t just serve as a training ground for increased criminal behavior.

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