Canyon County, ID – A man who kidnapped an 11-year-old girl after meeting and grooming her through an online video game with the intent of keeping her in a special room at his parent’s home in California was released onto probation by a judge after serving just nine months behind bars.
Brian Sangjoon Lee, 21, spent months grooming the pre-teen Nampa girl online and over the phone before he traveled from California to Idaho to abduct her in August of 2021, Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue said in a press release on Jan. 25.
Lee planned to bring the girl back to California with him, “where he had a special room prepared for her to live in at his parent’s house,” Sheriff Donahue wrote.
“It’s hard to believe he had her best intentions in mind, especially since he encouraged her to delete her cell phone records and leave her phone behind to help conceal her whereabouts,” the sheriff noted. “Despite his best efforts, my detectives were able to locate him and the girl at a local hotel before they made the trip to California…”
Police determined Lee had “cuddled” with the victim in the hotel room and that he had massaged her back while her shirt was off, according to the East Bay Times.
Lee was arrested on a charge of second-degree kidnapping and pleaded guilty to the felony count in March of 2022.
He faced up to 10 years in prison.
During a sentencing hearing that May, prosecutors urged Third Judicial District Judge Randall Grove to send Lee to prison for a period of five years fixed, followed by 15 years indeterminate, according to Sheriff Donahue.
Grove opted to sentence Lee to just two years fixed, followed by eight years indeterminate, but he retained jurisdiction in the case – commonly known as a “rider,” according to the sheriff.
When Lee appeared before Grove on Jan. 23 for a “rider review hearing,” Grove decided to release him from prison altogether and placed him on probation for five years, Sheriff Donahue said.
He had served just nine months behind bars.
“Yesterday’s decision by the judge to release Lee to five years of probation is beyond comprehension,” Sheriff Donahue said in the press release, noting that Lee “preyed on a pre-teen girl.”
“I fully believe my officers’ actions helped save this young girl’s life,” the sheriff continued. “That is why it is so frustrating to see him be released on probation.”
“Law enforcement did its job. The prosecutors did their job. Everyone in the justice system should have the victim’s well-being foremost in their minds, especially when it comes to protecting children,” Sheriff Donahue wrote.
He said Lee should not have been granted such a lenient sentence.
“This man is a threat to society with a proven track record of preying on young girls,” the sheriff said. “This sentencing sends the wrong message to perpetrators of crimes against children. This man belongs behind bars.”
Lee must register as a sex offender and is barred from having any contact with the victim.
The court also prohibited him from having contact with any minors for a period of 20 years.