Epicurean Owner Pleads Not Guilty
Published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 02:11
Chang Wook Chon, the proprietor of Epicurean and Co., pled not guilty to charges of criminal contempt Nov. 19 and will face a jury trial in February.
Chon was arraigned in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He is accused of criminal contempt for violating a court order that was issued during a civil lawsuit that began in 2010. The class action case was filed by four employees of Epicurean and Co. who claim that Chon had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to fully compensate them for overtime work.
One of the four employees received a notice to appear in court and told Chon he would need a day off from work to attend the proceedings. According to the plaintiff, Chon told him to ignore the notice or he would lose his job. This violated a 2011 court order that prohibited Chon from discussing the case with the plaintiffs.
“The United States attorney charges that on or about Dec. 14, 2011, within the District of Columbia, the defendant, Chang Wook Chon, did willfully and knowingly resist a lawful order of a Court of the United States,” the court documents read.
The civil case regarding the overtime wages will remain on hold while criminal proceedings are ongoing.
At the arraignment, U.S. attorney Patricia Stewart requested a bench trial with no jury present. Judge Robert L. Wilkins denied the request, requiring that Chon appear before a jury.
In most criminal cases, the defendant has the right to a jury trial. However, if the penalty is fewer than six months in jail or less than a $5,000 fine, the defendant may forfeit that right. The judge’s decision to hold a jury trial implies that he is considering a fine of more than $5,000.
Chon will be represented by Barry Coburn of D.C.-based law firm Coburn and Greenbaum. Coburn declined to comment, as did Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, because the case is still pending.
Both parties must submit any pretrial motions by Dec. 17. They will receive a response by Jan. 4 and must reply by Jan. 14. The motion hearing will take place Jan. 23 in advance of the Feb. 12 criminal hearing.