Embattled prosecutor shifts blame for racist remarks to attorneys for Hwang's Martial Arts
Attorney for Hwang's considered filing defamation lawsuit against prosecutor Karl Price for "completely reckless" allegations.
Thursday, June 25th 2015, 1:49 PM EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – An assistant county attorney who was reprimanded for calling the Korean-American family that owns Hwang's Martial Arts Academy “foreigners” in a civil case in May claims he simply adopted the term from attorneys for the Hwangs.
In a recent court filing, Assistant County Attorney Karl Price alleges attorney Danny Kang called his clients “foreigners” during a phone conversation and said they were having difficulty getting back into America following a trip out of the country.
“While surprised, I thought nothing of his comment although silence from me followed his comment,” Price wrote in a June 12 court document.
In addition, Price claims Kang disparaged Price's African-American clients, who had signed up their children for lessons at the martial arts academy but took one out because of a medical issue and were trying to get a refund.
Kang, according to Price, “shockingly” told him that “black customers always ask for their money back because their child just doesn't want to do it anymore,” according to court records
And in written correspondence, Price alleges that another attorney for the Hwangs, Gregory Troutman, “basically” referred to the Hwangs as “foreigners.”
In an interview Thursday, Kang said he and Troutman adamantly deny everything Price wrote in court documents and looked into whether they could sue him for defamation.
“I was blown away by the fact that he would openly lie in a court pleading,” Kang said. “I can't even fathom it. It's completely reckless.”
Kang initially sought to have Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Brian Edwards strike the comments from the case, arguing, in part, that Price was “casting spurious allegations of racial bias” that were not relevant to the case.
Kang recently dismissed his own motion, hoping instead that the issue would quietly pass.
“It was unprofessional,” Kang said of Price's claims. “I think he was just trying to get a rise out of me. I realize Mr. Price has no limit to what he is capable of when it comes to intimidating and upsetting the other side.”
Kang said during the only phone conversation he had with Price - in which he allegedly talked about black people always wanting a refund - he did not even know Price's clients were black at that time.
“I would be happy to hear any recordings he might have of this phone conversation where I allegedly said this,” Kang said.
And he said he would never refer to the Hwangs as “foreigners,” pointing out that he came to America from South Korea when he was eight and that he is now engaged to Mimi Hwang, whose family owns the martial arts academy.
“What he said I find to be very demeaning to me,” Kang said.
Price did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Price wrote in his recent motion that his response to Troutman's letter “propelled itself" to local and national media because he is a prosecutor, even though he was working in his own practice in handling the civil case.
In that May 22 letter, Price called the Hwang family "greedy foreigners who simply did not understand simple contract relations.”
In the letter,
, Price also wrote that the owners of Hwang's were "relying on some Asian principal" for not agreeing to settle the case.
The County Attorney's Office reprimanded Price for the“insensitive and derogatory" comments and ordered him to go to sensitivity training.
County Attorney Mike O'Connell was also not happy with an interview Price gave Insider Louisville
Also, in the interview, Price said his clients believed they were stereotyped by the Hwangs as a “bad element” of “another African-American trying to get out of a contract,” but said his clients “are not part of that element” and live in a good suburban home.
Jessie Halladay, a spokesperson for the County Attorney's Office, said they had not seen the latest comments made by Price in court records.
But O'Connell wrote in his reprimand letter that Price told him he made the comments in response to his belief that the Hwang's and their attorney had “improperly racially stereotyped" his clients.
Regardless, O'Connell said that "no matter what the reason nor the impetus for your making these comments, they are insensitive and derogatory."
And even though Price was not working as a prosecutor when he sent the letter, O'Connell said they still reflected poorly on the county attorney's office.
When O'Connell and Price met on June 1, according to the letter, Price apologized for the statements.
"While I sympathize with your explanation as to why you made these comments, your comments were discriminatory on their face and can never be justified," O'Connell wrote.
Price is currently suspended without pay pending a review of "disturbing" conduct cited in an article earlier this month by Courier-Journal reporter Andrew Wolfson.
"That article references specific instances of conduct by you in Arraignment Court which are quite disturbing to me and this office," O'Connell wrote in a letter to Price, obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act.
The newspaper article included several examples from arraignments in April and May that show Price appearing to disparage defendants. In some of the cases, Price was admonished for the comments by a judge.
O'Connell said Price would be on leave pending "an independent review" of the examples cited in the newspaper article. The investigation is still pending, Halladay said.
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