Family of panty thief gets $300K in wrongful accusation settlement

Family of panty thief gets $300K in wrongful accusation settlement

Credit: KGW photo

Sung Koo Kim during a previous court appearance.


by By and AP Staff


Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:33 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 14 at 1:06 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Relatives of a thief convicted of stealing women's underwear from college dorms will get a settlement of more than $330,000 for a wrongful accusation in a murder case.

Spokesman Jake Weigler for the Oregon Department of Justice said the state agreed to pay the $331,000 to the family of Sung Koo Kim and their attorneys.

Kim was once suspected in the disappearance of Brigham Young co-ed Brooke Wilberger. A civil rights lawsuit was filed by his parents and sister in 2005 claiming police used excessive force in an illegal search and caused the family to suffer "shock, fear, anxiety, humiliation, and mental and emotional pain and distress."

The suit named Newberg police detectives, an Oregon State Police trooper, the cities of Newberg and Tigard; Benton County and "John Does 1 through 35," who were unnamed state, local, county and federal authorities.

"Obviously this is a difficult case," Weigler said. "State police were dealing with what they believed to be kidnapping, so their first concern was safety of the individual. In the process of preparing the search a few technical errors were made in the warrant. But in urgent cases we tend towards the side of trying to protect the public with all due speed. This decision does not play on his criminal conviction."

Wilberger, 19, vanished May 24, 2004 from an apartment complex near the Oregon State University campus. No trace of her has been found despite massive searches.

Kim was later convicted of stealing thousands of pair of dormitories and apartments in Corvallis, Newberg, Forest Grove and Portland. During a search before Wilberger vanished police said they found thousands of pairs women's underwear catalogued as coming from the locations of many of the burglaries.

He was living at home when Wilberger disappeared. Joel Courtney was later arrested and charged with her murder.

David D. Park, who filed the lawsuit, said the search of the family's Tigard home was unlawful because police were only authorized to look for evidence of second-degree burglary.

Instead, police used the warrant to seek evidence related to Wilberger with no solid reason to think Sung Koo Kim was involved, Park said.

His mother, Dong Kim, 56, said police detonated explosives at the door of her home at 3 a.m. and handcuffed her for two hours.

"I was just numb," she said. "I started shaking uncontrollably, I was so cold."

Dong Kim said her husband was injured by the rubber bullet. She said her 33-year-old daughter suffered nerve damage to her arms and hands because her handcuffs were so tight.

Police also seized computers used by Sung Koo Kim that they said contain images of child pornography, tens of thousands of photos and videos of torture, rape and mutilation, and documents detailing a murder.