Thursday, Oct. 28, 2004 | 8:53 a.m.
In a meeting in January 2003, lawyers for a woman now charged with extortion said she would orchestrate "a bombardment in the mass media" to destroy Rene Angelil's reputation with a rape allegation unless Angelil gave her and her husband $13.5 million.
On Wednesday, jurors in Yun Kyeong Sung's trial watched a video of the surreptitiously taped meeting, which led directly to the arrest of Sung and her husband, Ae Ho Kwon, on charges they extorted Angelil, the husband of singer Celine Dion.
Sung's attorney, Robert Langford, tried to make the case that the meeting was a set-up and that Sung, 49, and Kwon, 52, never made the threats that her lawyers at the time attributed to them.
At the 2003 meeting, ostensibly a negotiation session toward a possible multimillion-dollar settlement, Joseph Hong, a lawyer for the pair, says Sung and Kwon had long been plotting a "course of action" if they didn't get what they asked for.
Kwon, he says on the tape, had drafted a book about the alleged sexual assault, to be called "Something Happened in Las Vegas," and had designed a Web site that would publicize the details of the case.
Martin Singer, Angelil's attorney, asked what would happen if the settlement was refused.
"I'm sure he (Kwon) would get it published or sell the rights to a media outlet," Hong says on the tape.
"He has taken the steps he needs to protect his interests and, I hate to say this, but to be a thorn in the side of Rene Angelil for the rest of his life," Hong says.
Throughout the meeting, Hong and the couple's other lawyer, Michael Olsen, affect disapproval for the idea that Sung and Kwon might conduct such a smear campaign, saying they would withdraw so as not to be part of it, but portraying the pair as determined to assuage their sense of grievance by whatever means.
Presumably to establish that Sung and Kwon were committing extortion, for the sake of the police case, Singer repeatedly asks a Korean interpreter to translate the lawyers' back-and-forth and tries to get the two to respond, but their replies are noncommittal or not clearly translated.
When Hong says Kwon will try to sell his story, Singer asks the interpreter to translate the remark and asks whether Kwon agrees with the statement.
"He doesn't want to answer that kind of question," says Hong, who also speaks Korean.
Hong says $13.5 million is the final settlement offer. He tells Singer and Mike Wilson -- an undercover police detective posing as Angelil's business manager -- to tell Angelil, "Mr. Angelil, I don't know what they're going to do. Frankly, their attorney doesn't even know what they're going to do. But one of the things is definitely going to include that they're going to go to the media."
At that point, Singer and Wilson excuse themselves from the room. Less than two minutes later, Sung and Kwon are arrested.
In an indistinct conversation outside the meeting room captured by a microphone Wilson was wearing, Singer apparently told the detective that the meeting didn't go as well as expected, and that he had hoped for stronger evidence.
Langford said that exchange supported his contention that "this was a done deal. Regardless of what happened...what they said, they were going to be arrested that day."
But District Judge Jackie Glass ruled that the jury couldn't hear that statement because Singer's opinion about the case wasn't relevant.
Langford offered no witnesses in Sung's defense but presented a transcript translating the large amount of Korean conversation that took place on the tape, telling the jury in his opening statement that the Korean translation would tell "the rest of the story" and reveal Sung's true feelings.
"You can hear the passion in her voice," Langford said. "This is not about money -- it's about her husband, her son, it's about a point of honor."
Jurors will be able to read the Korean translation when they begin deliberations on the case this afternoon.
Sung is charged with extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion and as a witness soliciting a bribe for allegedly demanding as much as $20 million from Angelil to keep her and her husband quiet about the rape accusation.
Kwon's trial on the same charges is scheduled for January.
Angelil paid the pair $2 million in 2000 after Sung charged that he followed her through the Imperial Palace and fondled her. In return, she signed a confidentiality agreement.
But two years after the alleged incident, in March 2002, Sung and Kwon asked for more money and filed both a civil lawsuit and a rape complaint with police. At the time, Sung was being prosecuted for nearly $1 million in unpaid casino markers.
Metro Police closed the rape investigation for lack of evidence when Sung promptly refused to turn over a jacket she claimed was stained with Angelil's semen and a pair of green underwear she said he left in her room. Kwon delivered his wife's clothing to police in 2003 but police refused to test it for DNA at that point.