LANCASTER – Two local martial arts instructors accused of kidnapping, beating and torturing two teenagers in September must stand trial on multiple felony charges, a judge ruled Thursday (Dec. 19).
The decision came after a three-day preliminary hearing at Antelope Valley courthouse for Ston Lee, 34, and Skoth Ly, 33.
On Nov. 7, authorities served search warrants at the Ston Skoth Martial Arts Academies on 10th Street West and 45th Street West in Lancaster and recovered Samurai swords from both locations. That day, deputies detained Skoth Ly at a residence on the 44000 block of Gadsden Avenue and detained Ston Lee at a home on the 8300 block of West Avenue F, where deputies also recovered a firearm, drug paraphernalia, and a hydroponic marijuana grow. Skoth Ly and Ston Lee were booked at the Lancaster Station jail Nov. 7 on suspicion of kidnapping, assault, torture and cultivating marijuana.
On Nov. 12, the brothers were each charged with two counts of kidnapping, two counts of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, and one count of torture.
During this week’s preliminary hearing, sheriff’s detectives and one of the teen victims detailed the allegations against Ston Lee and Skoth Ly.
Eighteen-year-old Adam Russell testified that Skoth Ly confronted him, chased him and threatened to kill him near the Ston Skoth Martial Arts Academy on 10th Street West. He said the incident happened in September, but he could not remember the date. Russell said he managed to get away, and as he was hiding in the bushes, he witnessed Skoth Ly take one of his friends into a white mustang and drive away.
The friend, 19-year-old Harlen Luke Carter, is the second victim in the case. Carter, who is currently in county jail for violating probation, did not testify at the preliminary hearing. Detective Wilson of the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station gave testimony about an interview he conducted with Carter on Nov. 7. Carter told detectives he was beaten and “waterboarded” during the kidnap incident, Wilson testified.
The day after Carter’s alleged kidnapping, Ston Lee confronted Russell outside the Mobile Link store near Avenue K and 20th Street West, according to Russell’s testimony.
Russell said Ston Lee and a “skinny black kid” grabbed him by the shoulders and forced him into a “big old black van” driven by a “Mexican dude with a big old beard.”
According to Russell’s testimony, his captors forced him to pull his shirt over his head, tied his hands behind his back and demanded answers about a break-in at the Ston Skoth Martial Arts Academy.
“[Ston was] saying ‘why did you break into my gym?’ and I kept denying it,” Russell said, adding that it was the first time he’d heard about the gym break-in.
During the drive, the “skinny black kid” burned him on his back with cigarettes, Russell testified. The van stopped in the desert, and he was taken out of the van and forced onto his knees, Russell testified.
“I thought I was gonna die that day,” Russell said.
He said Ston Lee delivered several “roundhouse kicks” to his face, and continued to accuse him of breaking into the gym. The men then put him back into the van, pulled his shirt over his head and drove him to a liquor store and then to a home garage, Russell testified.
Once inside the garage, both Ston Lee and Skoth Ly kicked and punched him throughout his body for two hours straight, while demanding answers about the gym break-in, Russell testified.
Near the end of the beating, Skoth Ly made him take off his shoe and placed a Samurai sword between his toes, Russell testified.
“He said ‘if you tell me the truth, I won’t cut your toe off,’” Russell said. Ston Lee recorded the incident on a cell phone as Skoth Ly threatened him with the sword between his toes, Russell testified. Skoth Ly eventually cut his toe with the sword, resulting in stiches to his toe, Russell testified.
After the beating, he was forced to put his shirt over his head and driven to a restaurant parking lot near 20th Street West and Avenue J, where he was tossed out of the vehicle, Russell testified.
During cross-examination, defense attorneys chipped away at Russell’s credibility.
Russell admitted to obtaining an “eight ball” of meth and snorting the meth in the hours before and after the alleged kidnapping. Russell said he snorted the drugs because he was stressed over a juvenile warrant for his arrest.
Defense attorneys also questioned Detective Wilson, who said Russell gave a different version of events to investigators on Nov. 7. According to Wilson’s testimony, Russell told investigators he was kidnapped in a white mustang and taken to the desert, where he saw four cars, 20 people and a chair full of weapons.
Russell also told detectives that two of his friends had burglarized the gym, and the day after the burglary, the friends showed him money and laptops obtained from the break-in, according to Wilson’s testimony. One of the friends, Harlen Luke Carter, is the second victim in the case.
During cross-examination, Detective Wilson also testified that a woman witnessed the interaction between Ston Lee and Russell just before the alleged kidnapping. The woman, a manager at the Mobile Link store, told detectives she did not witness any violence between the two when she saw them talking, Wilson testified.
“It appears Adam Russell was injured in some way, but his story is so unbelievable, he has no credibility whatsoever,” said Defense Attorney Michael Paxton in arguing a motion to dismiss the charges against Ston Lee.
Skoth Ly’s attorney, Robert Nadler, also asked the court to dismiss the charges against his client.
Both motions were denied, and Skoth Ly and Ston Lee were each ordered to stand trial on two counts of kidnapping, two counts of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, and one count of torture.
Ston Lee was also held to answer on three additional charges added to the complaint on Nov. 22 – cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sales, and theft of utility services totaling more than $950. Those three charges were dismissed against Skoth Ly due to insufficient evidence.
The judge denied the defense attorneys’ motion to reduce bail, and set bail for Skoth Ly at $1 million and bail for Ston Lee at $1,130,000.
Both men remain jailed and are due back in court Jan. 6, 2014 for a second arraignment.
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