WINCHESTER — Bryan Joseph Kim took his child abuse case to trial in Frederick Circuit Court, but on the second day decided against putting his fate in the hands of the jury.
Kim, 32, of the 100 block of Little Pond Lane, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to malicious wounding, child cruelty and child neglect over breaking the leg of a then-6-year-old boy he was homeschooling on Oct. 26, 2018. Kim, whose state sentencing guideline recommendations haven’t been calculated, is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Aug. 12.
Kim’s plea came a day after jurors heard an approximately 75-minute interview from Oct. 31, 2018, between Kim and Rachel Taylor, a county Social Services child welfare investigator. The abuse occurred as the boy was sitting on a couch in a recreational vehicle. Kim said he was disciplining the boy for not doing his math work properly. Kim said he hadn’t meant to hurt the boy. He just wanted to get his attention when he picked him up by the shirt and slammed him down three times.
“He wasn’t understanding [the math], and I was getting frustrated with him. I grabbed him by the arms and re-positioned him multiple times,” Kim said. “I was lifting him up and putting him down. It was a harsh, violent motion.”
Kim said when he saw the boy was shivering after putting him down he checked to see if he was hurt. He said he rotated the boy’s left foot and “heard a crack.” He then took the boy to Winchester Medical Center.
Kim said he is strict with children, but not abusive. However, he told Taylor previous discipline included hitting the boy in the mouth, and he sometimes used a belt to discipline the boy and two other young children he homeschooled. Kim told Taylor the injury occurred at a time when he was angry at his wife over money problems he blamed on her.
“But I never thought I would let frustration control me,” he said. “[The marriage] slowly kept getting worse and worse and worse and my mental capacity was being pushed to the threshold.”
Kim’s wife testified Tuesday that she didn’t believe he was trying to hurt the boy and said the boy’s left leg was more susceptible to injury after he fell off a stool and broke it in 2016. While she testified the injury was unintentional, Kim’s wife notified the Sheriff’s Office. She said she was concerned when the boy told people how his leg was broken that they would think Kim intentionally did it and she wanted to set the record straight.
“I felt compelled to report it, but not out of hate, not out of spite, but because I didn’t want this to happen again,” she said.
Other than a misdemeanor marijuana possession conviction, Kim has no criminal record, and attorney Thomas Lemuel Fox said after the plea that his client isn’t abusive. Fox said the case was overcharged, but Judge Alexander R. Iden denied his motion to have the charges reduced Tuesday.
Iden’s ruling and the risk of the jury recommending a lengthy sentence if they convicted Kim led to the plea. Under a new law passed on a mostly party line vote by the democratically-controlled General Assembly, convicted defendants have the option of letting judges sentence them without jury recommendations beginning July 1.
“The jury is only told the maximum punishments for sentences. They are not shown guidelines and they don’t have any experience sentencing,” Fox said. “It was a big risk to actually go to a jury for sentencing.”