Entertainment lawyer Samuel Seow Theng Beng has pleaded guilty to charges of causing hurt and using criminal force on two of his employees, one of whom is his niece.
Seow, 47, is the owner of the law firm Samuel Seow Law Corporation. On Monday (27 Jul), he pleaded guilty to one charge each of voluntarily causing hurt and using criminal force with the intent to cause annoyance.
Another charge of using criminal force and a fourth charge under the Protection from Harassment Act will be taken into consideration for sentencing.
These charges amounted from an incident that occurred at the law firm in South Bridge Road on 17 April 2018.
The two victims were Rachel Kang Pei Shan, 21, and Brenda Kong Shin Ying, 26.
They were employed under two other companies that Seow owned: Beam Artistes and Samuel Seow Corporate.
Ms Kang worked as an artiste and events executive at Beam Artistes, while Ms Kong, who is also Seow’s niece, worked as a lawyer at the law firm.
Incident involving assault against two female employees
On 17 April 2018, at about 5:47pm, Ms Kang was about to leave the law firm at 79 South Bridge Road to prepare for a company event when Seow reprimanded her for leaving without completing her work.
Video footage captured on a closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) showed Seow subsequently poking Ms Kang’s forehead twice with force using his finger. He also pushed a file that Ms Kang was holding, causing the woman to teeter backwards.
Minutes after he pushed Ms Kang, Seow asked aloud for the whereabouts of an associate director. Ms Kong said she did not respond as she was unsure and then walked to the photocopy machine at about 5.54pm.
Upon seeing Ms Kong walking away, she said that he repeated his question and this time she replied that the associate director had a meeting from 4pm to 5pm. However, she did not know where he was after that period of time.
Ms Kong claimed that Seow then asked her why she had not replied to him earlier and she explained that she did not know the director’s whereabouts. She said that Seow then walked towards her and repeated his question.
Ms Kong said she raised her arm across her chest to protect herself when Seow approached her, and she said that she accidentally touched his chest.
The second video from the CCTV started at the point when Seow started charging at Ms Kong across the office.
“He shouted ‘Brenda!’, before repeatedly saying ‘you beat me, you beat me, you dare to beat me’,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kumaresan Gohulabalan.
Seow then pushed Ms Kong backwards. A staff member tried to restrain Seow but he broke free and started slapping Ms Kong’s cheeks and head. Ms Kong hit Seow’s head back and by that time three other employees had intervened. In the midst of the struggle, Seow had pushed Ms Kong until she fell.
When another female employee tried to pull Seow away, Seow hit her on her arm shouting, “You stop it!” before confronting Ms Kong again. She eventually managed to leave the office after Seow was restrained by a male employee.
After Ms Kong left, Seow got into an argument with the female colleague whom he pushed and fell at one point.
Ms Kong sought medical attention and was found with tenderness over her cheek, scalp, neck, arm, as well as bruises and abrasions.
Ms Kang filed a police report on 12 May 2018, alleging that Seow had physically abused her on a number of occasions since 26 March that year during her tenure.
Seow also filed a report against Ms Kang over the incident but both dropped the charges after.
Viral videos and audio recording circulated online
The reports of Seow’s assault on the two women surfaced in 2018. A 30-minute audio recording of a quarrel between Seow and his niece went viral online.
On 26 April last year, the two videos detailing the assault were uploaded online.[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MofTxw5tsYo[/embedyt] [embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MWeS9sAf2E[/embedyt]
When it surfaced, Seow issued a statement which said he is “unsure” what people posting edited sound clips and videos “are trying to achieve”.
He admitted that there was an “issue” in his office in 2018, but did not address the assault.
Seow said managing three companies causes him to get “stressed up”.
“Being an entrepreneur is never easy and juggling between finding the work, feeding people and paying salaries on time is a constant struggle.”
He added that the relevant people in the incident have made peace and wish for this to be behind them.
On 7 June 2019, Law Society (LawSoc) president Gregory Vijayendran said that LawSoc “has full faith in our legal system to mete out a just verdict in Mr Samuel Seow’s case,” he said in a statement.
He also reiterated that LawSoc does not condone any form of abuse.
He added that the “Council unanimously referred information touching upon the conduct of Mr Samuel Seow to the Chairman of the Inquiry Panel pursuant to section 85(2) of the Legal Profession Act,” he said. “The matter is now pending before the Disciplinary Tribunal.”
LawSoc will publish the findings of the tribunal when the matter has been determined, it added.
According to Asia Law Network, Seow incorporated the law firm on 17 March 2005 and he was supposedly dubbed a “celebrity lawyer” by the local press. It started being known as “Singapore’s first media law firm”.
Some of Seow’s famous clients he had represented are Tanya Chua and Michelle Saram, whose 2001 case put him on the “celebrity lawyer” map. The other notable case was the illegal downloads of “Dallas Buyers Club in Singapore”.
He once said he is close friends with Sun Ho and Kit Chan as well.
Pled Guilty to Charges
After pleading guilty on Monday, DPP Kumaresan told the court that it was seeking for the court to hold a Newton Hearing to determine when Seow had been suffering from a psychiatric illness, adjustment disorder, and if it was causally linked to his offence.
He added that the psychiatrists from the defence and prosecution had differing assessments on whether Seow was suffering from the psychiatric disorder at the time of the offence.
Under Chapter 6 on sentencing, the State Courts’s guidebook states that a Newton Hearing may be called when there is a dispute with facts that could materially affect the sentence to be imposed on a person following his conviction.
This includes “conflicting medical reports on whether the accused was suffering from a mental illness during the commission of the offence(s) which would lower his/her culpability (i.e. blameworthiness)”.
A Newton Hearing is conducted like a trial.
Seow is represented by lawyer Choo Si Sen, who did not object to a Newton Hearing.
He did tell the court that the defence was seeking a mandatory treatment order report to assess Seow’s suitability for the sentencing option, where an offender will undergo psychiatric treatment.
The case has been fixed for a pre-trial conference on 13 August.
The maximum punishment for voluntarily causing hurt is two years in prison, a fine of S$5,000, or both, while the highest penalty for criminal force is three months’ jail, a S$1,500 fine, or both.