Yong Yang gave two teenagers a gift that even the judge found remarkable.
In January two now-convicted teen felons who, according to court records were looking for drug money, plotted to rob Mr. Yang for cash. They knew he would have money on him as he closed his produce market in Berwyn back in January.
The older of the two attackers knew a little something about Mr. Yang. Yang had given him a part time job in 2011. According to a former store employee who spoke with Patch back in March, the 18-year-old attacker failed to perform his job as instructed and after numerous attempts and second-chances, Mr. Yang eventually had to let him go.
The teenager decides to repay Mr. Yang's kindness by robbing him.
According to court records, not only did the pair (one was 18 at the time of the crime, the other 17) lie in wait for Mr Yang, they cased the store the day before and hid clothes along the Amtrak/Septa Main Line rail tracks to change into after the robbery.
Armed with a knife, the pair jumped Mr. Yang as he climbed into his delivery van after his typical 15 hour workday. During the robbery one of the teen felons delivered a blow to the 70-year-old man's head that was so powerful it left Mr. Yang blind in one eye.
The attack changed a man's life forever.
Yong Yang's story is a classic American Dream tale. He came to the United States from Korea nearly 40 years ago with only his daughter and a dream for a better life. He worked for years in the produce business in Philadelphia before opening the produce market that bore his name for 14 years in Berwyn.
Every morning his work day started around 4 a.m. when he would go to the giant produce distribution center in South Philadelphia and literally hand pick the freshest fruits and vegetables that had just arrived at the Port of Philadelphia. Then he drove the merchandise to Berwyn to stock his store for his Main Line customers.
Individuals as well as restaurants shopped at Yang's Market because they knew it was the best produce available on any given day. According to many around him, Mr. Yang sometimes struggled with english but always wanted the best for his customers and the community.
He gave many young workers a chance to earn and learn at his store. Some thrived. As in any small business a few young workers, like the teen who ended up attacking him, had trouble meeting the demands of the job. Mr. Yang always wanted to help his young employees, but sometimes it just didn't work out.
According to those familiar with the situation, such was the case with the teen who robbed him.
The injury from the attack left Mr. Yang blind in one eye and unable to drive. The result: He was unable to continue operating his business and by late May Yang's Market was forced to go out of business.
Jump ahead to sentencing.
Over the course of 2012 the two teenagers were captured, arrested, sent to Chester County Prison to await trial and eventually convicted of felonies for their attack.
The younger of the two suspects was 17 at the time of the attack. He turned 18 in jail while the case worked its way through the court system.
Mr. Yang, who opted not to attend the sentencing in person, sent prosecutors a letter asking that his attackers be sentenced to "the least jail time and the most education" the court could order.
It was a request that visibly moved people in the courtroom. Coming at the end of a court day of sentencings involving run of the mill bad guys doing run of the mill crimes, this case and this sentencing hearing stood out.
At first it stood out for the heinous, cold-blooded facts of the crime as described by the prosecutors and recounted for the record by the judge. Then the prosecutor read Mr. Yang's request as relatives of the younger attacker, as well as a few others in the courtroom wiped tears from their eyes.
The judge took Mr. Yang's remarkable request into consideration but said that she could not fully grant the request for the least jail time becuase of the violent nature of the attack and the risk she felt the young felon posed to the community. The court did order the youner teen to get his G.E.D. while serving his sentence.
A sentencing hearing for the older felon and acknowledged "ring leader," who was 18 at the time of the crime included the same request from Mr. Yang. His sentencing hearing was continued until a pre-sentencing report can be completed.
In the meantime, the two teen convicts are serving years in prison, with plenty of time to think about the incredible gift they received from their victim.
Mr. Yang's request could not only save each signicant jail time but as was pointed out in the courtroom, could be the key to turning their lives around.
The younger teen's sentence includes an order that he have no contact with Mr. Yang- with one exception. The teen requested that he be allowed to write one thank you note to Mr. Yang.
The court granted his request.