The third trial of Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho and Choi “Sword” Sung-won was held on September 10. The accuser, Sword, attended as a witness and the interrogation went for approximately two hours. Prior to the trial, Sword appealed that it is difficult to testify in front of cvMax. The department of justice complied with the opinion and sent cvMax to the listening room.
After giving his oath, Sword took the stand. The prosecution checked if Sword’s accusation and the police’s investigation were correct and Sword confirmed it. The prosecution later requested a more detailed explanation of the situation of violence. The following is Sword’s testimony:
“It was feedback time as always. That day, I was [playing] really bad. The game itself, my teammates weren’t able to do anything because of me, we lost because of me. Thinking of that day, there was a very serious one on one feedback session, and I was used to it. When the accused had feedback, he used to talk like usual but if he didn’t like my plays or if I played bad even just a little bit, his expression changed, looking like he really doesn’t like me and said, “Why did you do this?” When he said that, there was nothing I could say. I can’t change the fact I played badly. So I didn’t react or answer, just being bad as it is. Later, he said that we lost just because of me. He said, “The rest of the team is harmed because of you”.
There’s a term called “abusing”. Abusing is when you get paid for intending to control the outcome of a game. Although it was just a practice game, the accused said, “This is abusing. It can’t be explained otherwise.” I remained mostly silent since there was nothing to answer back. Then he just suddenly hit the chair and was enraged. I was sitting on the chair, and he was shouting, there are many different ways of shouting, but he was hitting me, standing and shouting, and pushing me, holding between my neck and shoulder. That happened really suddenly. The sink corner is angled; what I remember is that I thought I’m going to fall and at that moment, I crashed into that edge. I remember my back really hurt.
The accused said, “What in the world do I have to do with you?” What can I do? There was nothing I could do but stay silent. In that situation, I was just silent and he got infuriated. He usually turns like that during feedback; after the chair bumped into the wall, he held my shoulder and shook me.
If I played bad, he should have explained how I did bad, given some feedback and some consolation. It’s true that I played bad as a professional, but did the feedback have to be that way…? I wasn’t able to understand. If my play had been bad, I hoped he would think “maybe his condition is bad” and console me, or ask me “are you in a bad condition today?”
Then he took me to his room. I thought he would apologize, but he was too oppressive. I was dumbfounded because he was still angry. I think he didn’t like my facial expression. He asked why my expression was like that, saying, “Is there something you don’t like?”
Afterward, I said, “I think the feedback is too strong”, but the accused said, “Is this too much? I can do worse, but I’m keeping it in. I can’t understand why you’re making those garbage plays and are still having that mindset”. When he said that, there was nothing to say for me. I just answered, “I think I played badly”. Then we just talked about concentrating on the next game and then we went on with the next practice game. I was really dumbfounded and remember going out of that room wiping my tears. I believe there would be a player that saw that.
After Sword’s testimony, cvMax’s attorney started to ask questions. The questions prepared from cvMax’s side were 125, but due to time, many questions were omitted. The questions started with Sword’s pro gaming career, Griffin’s sensational run, and cvMax’s goal.
For instance, cvMax’s attorney checked with Sword whether Griffin reaching the LCK and the world championship from being ranked low in Challengers is cvMax’s contribution and whether the salary — which was was between 500K-2M KRW per month during their time in Challengers — rose to a salary of 1B-2B KRW per year at the time they qualified for the world championship.
About these questions, Sword’s attorney retorted that “the current questions aren’t related to this case. It is not suitable for this case where we have to find if there was violence or not”. CvMax’s attorney answered that “this is to examine the background of the case and to check the credibility of the testimony. These questions are necessary for the accused.”
Sword’s attorney protested again: “Why are you examining the background in a case about violence? Are you saying violence can be rationalized by the situation?” and cvMax’s attorney answered that “we’re checking the evidence through a witness. Do I have to consider the submissions when I ask questions?”
Sword said: “More than anything, I want to talk about just the things I underwent. I’d like the case to be solved more than the background. The justice department put an end to the dispute by telling Sword, “the witness can not answer if they consider the question to be inappropriate”.
Questions and evidence about the specifics of cvMax’s violent measures followed. CvMax’s attorney checked Sword’s original testimony while projecting a picture of Griffin’s team facility. He also submitted a video of cvMax, Sword, and the players having a comfortable conversation at a point after the incident as evidence.
When he asked, “Although cvMax was strict about the game, wasn’t he friendly and candid with all the players like a brother out of the game?”, Sword answered, “I just blended in”.
About the video of cvMax praising Sword, Sword said: “It’s lip-service because he’s on video”. When asked about Sword lying on cvMax’s lap, he said, “I just showed a friendly attitude because we were shooting a video”.
The following is a part of Sword’s answers.
cvMax’s attorney: Seeing that Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon and Choi “Doran” Hyeon-joon are doing well, cvMax’s method of instruction is reliable. What do you think?
Sword: It may be suitable for those players, but I don’t know about me. I don’t think it fit me.
When the accused told the witness, “You have to come to your senses. The team could go through terrible times because of this. If your performance continues to be bad, the team won’t be able to win, we won’t be able to win Worlds, and you’ll be irreversibly harming your teammates”, do you think it’s to call you out?
Sword: More than that, I think he wasn’t able to keep his rage to himself, maybe because he was angry at my plays.
Was the feedback from the accused usually given in an area where five players were together?
Sword: It was in the living room together and sometimes he would call one person at a time.
In the picture, there’s Griffin’s practice facility. Did the incident for this case happen here?
Is the practice facility area connected to the area where the sink is?
Did the accused push over the victim for about 1.5 meters up to the sink and kitchen?
Sword: The other players were in their seats and the situation was while he was giving me feedback individually.
You submitted a video of the game on February 9, 2019 as evidence. Whose screen is it?
Sword: It’s the coach’s.
In the recorded conversation with Son, did you say the “impact [referring to loud sound of hitting something — Ed.] was big”?
Sword: I don’t remember exactly. If it was in the recorded conversation, it should be right.
Whether it wasn’t in the recorded conversation or doesn’t know the situation on February 9, 2019, he doesn’t remember exactly. Wouldn’t that be because there wasn’t anything special to remember? A person that was there at the incident doesn’t remember anything... Is it possible that what happened that day was nothing special?
Sword: There’s someone who does remember. It could be all vague or not remembering. The feedback was really loud and there was an impact. But as I said earlier, the other players were doing their stuff. All the players are used to one-on-one feedback. They could’ve missed it if they were doing their own work at their seats.
According to the video, you’re saying that the impact sound is from striking your armrest on your chair.
According to the recorded conversation with Son, he said he saw the accused strike the desk several times. Is it true that the accused hit your chair?
What about hitting the desk?
Sword: It could be different from what the witness said.
Do you only remember hitting the chair?
In the recorded conversation with Park, you said, “What I’m asserting is that he hit my chair and shook me by my collar”, is this correct?
If the witness actually experienced that incident, you wouldn’t say “what I’m asserting”. Shouldn’t you say that this happened?
Sword: I think it’s the same, just the way of speech is different.
As a pro gaming team head coach, he [cvMax] has to develop competition as well as players’ individual prowess and strong feedback could be necessary from time to time to stimulate the players. What do you think?
Sword: I think not for me.
What was said in the feedback on February 9, 2019, seems to be necessary to overcome the performance problems and to overcome the mindset. What do you think?
Sword: I think not for me.
Did the accused tell the players to tell him whenever they thought the feedback style was inappropriate?
Do you not remember? If you don’t, say you don’t.
Sword: He used the word “display”.
So that means he’s not really mad, he’s “displaying” that he’s mad to stimulate the players?
Do you not remember him telling the players to tell him whenever they thought the feedback style was inappropriate?
Sword: I don’t know. I don’t remember.
▲ Video submitted as evidence, English subtitles available (Source: Griffin Youtube channel)
This is a video one month after the said date. You were saying that your performance lacked but the accused is praising you. It seems that you two are in a good relationship.
Sword: First, that person has lip service on video, and since there’s a camera and we’re shooting a video, I think he just said good things.
During early to mid-2019, is it true that you didn’t reach 800 points in solo queue?
Sword: I remember, but I have to look it up for the early-mid 2019.
Were all other Griffin players higher than 1,000 points?
Sword: I remember that they were high. They were always high.
The accused asked you to raise your solo queue points to the level of the other players and promised that he’d give you a present if you reach 1,000 points, yes?
When you struggled to raise your points, did he lower that standard to 800?
Sword: He did say that he’ll make it lower, but I don’t remember the points.
Do you remember him telling you that would you accept punishment if you continue to make the same mistakes?
Sword: I don’t think “punishment” is the right word. He said he would give me a disadvantage? I don’t remember.
You said that you’ll accept that. When you continued to make the same mistake, did he give you a high-priced vitamin tonic as a present, saying that it’ll help your performance instead of a punishment?
Sword: That’s probably Son.
Has he ever gifted you a high-priced tonic?
Sword: Yes. One worth 70,000 KRW.
[Showing a capture of a messenger conversation] Did you maintain a comfortable relationship with the accused after the incident, in April 2019, or June 2019, asking for a fitness center, eating bananas, or for homepage membership sponsor number? [From the transcript, it doesn’t become clear what “homepage membership sponsor number” refers to. We have translated the question verbatim — Ed.]
Sword: We did message each other on KakaoTalk, but to feel that we’re close… Sometimes there weren’t even answers.
[Showing a video of Team Griffin daily life] The accused is sitting on your lap. In the video, you and the accused are getting along very well and kidding around candidly.
Sword: Yes. That’s on camera, so we’re just showing good things...
You’re just showing good things since it’s on camera?
According to the video, it’s hard to say that you’ve been mentally and physically abused by the accused.
Sword: Would I wreck the team atmosphere with a problem between me and the head coach?
If the violence is as severe to have him punished, the team atmosphere wouldn’t be that good. How was his relationship with the other players?
Sword: It was just good.
The feedback on February 9, 2019, was for the mindset, and wouldn’t it be that you accepted it so that you maintained a good relationship with the accused afterward?
Sword: I’ve said this before, but there was awkwardness. Others could have taken a hint; I think the accused is the only one who didn’t. I waited for an apology but I never got one. So I was always awkward. I waited for him to apologize until the lawsuit.
Did you tell him to apologize before the lawsuit?
Sword: I didn’t tell him.
You sued the accused on November 29, 2019, on an incident that happened nine months ago. Is there a reason that you didn’t file the lawsuit at the time of the incident?
Sword: I couldn’t wreck the team atmosphere because of my relationship with the accused. I can’t wreck everything because of me. That was the purpose.
Did you think it was worth filing a lawsuit on November 29?
Sword: We met at the mediation by Riot. He had the audacity to turn it on me. That I have to apologize.
When your performance was lacking, another player started as the top laner. Did you agree with the change of the top laner?
Sword: I agreed.
But one week before Worlds, the accused was fired, and did you start all the games as the top laner?
Sword: I played all the games as the top laner.
Was any dissatisfaction about changing the top laner involved with your lawsuit?
Sword: No. I agreed with the head coach.
[Showing an interview] Was this interview demanded by director Cho Gyu-nam, after telling you and the players false facts that the accused was leaking Griffin’s strategy?
Sword: I won’t answer things outside of my case. I don’t want to be involved.
About Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok, when director Cho threatened Kanavi, signing him to a long-term contract with a Chinese team and attempted to take a massive transfer fee, did the accused reveal it?
Sword: It’s not involved with the case, so I won’t answer.
Director Cho came to a critical situation due to the revelation. Did Cho deny everything and request the LCK to investigate the accused that there was physical and verbal abuse during his tenure as the head coach to attack him
Sword: I will not answer.
When the LCK actually investigated, do you know other Griffin players and parents thought the accused was a revered teacher and said that they haven’t been abused?
Sword: I will not answer.
During LCK’s investigation, there was a session where you, the accused, and a staff member sat together with a recorder. The accused asked for your opinion several times, asked to be understood. Did you testify that you agreed to his teaching methods?
Sword: I never agreed to his teaching methods.
In LCK’s investigation, did you testify that “the problem that occurred on February 9, 2019, isn’t that important” and “the problem is that the accused criticized you publicly”?
Not at all?
Sword: Not at all.
[Showing a message from the mother of Jeong to the accused] In the message, director Cho told Jeong to call out the accused about his verbal violence, Jeong’s mother disagreed, and told Cho to leave him [Jeong] out, correct?
Sword: This doesn’t have anything to do with me.
Did director Cho tell or suggest you to write down reasons to punish the accused or to sue the accused of violence?
Sword: No, he didn’t.
Did the director and CEO of Griffin tell players the following: “The Kanavi incident is not true at all and the whole team is in a critical situation. This is because the accused revealed false information. The accused brought his girlfriend to the team house”, which is false information, and reprimanded the players that you’re just onlookers that don’t do anything for the team?
Sword: I will not answer.
[Showing an interview that’s blaming cvMax] Is it because director Cho said that you’re an onlooker that doesn’t do anything for the team?
Sword: I will not answer.
In an interview, you said that the accused told you, “You can’t make a one-handed person clap. Other players have two hands, but you only have one. I can’t treat a handicapped person the same as the others”. Has he said that to you?
Sword: I will not answer.
But what he actually said during feedback was, “if you criticize a one-handed person to clap, it’s the person who asks for it that is bad. But if they asked a person with two hands to clap and they can’t, then who’s wrong?” Was it actually this?
Sword: I will not answer.
The background of this lawsuit was because of the competition for the starting spot in the top lane, and there was criticism from fans after the accused’s stream. There was a personal grudge against the accused. Afterward, director Cho gave you false information, conciliating you to attack the accused?
Sword: That is not true at all.
After cvMax’s attorney questioned the witness, the prosecution continued to ask more questions. The key point was about cvMax’s feedback: whether cvMax asked the players for agreement on strong feedback, how cvMax gave feedback to other players, how other head coaches give their feedback, etc.
When Sword was given a chance for his final remarks, he said:
“I gave cvMax many chances to apologize, but when we had a phone call during Worlds, or when we met under mediation with Riot, he got rather angry instead. I wanted a sincere apology, but seeing cvMax talk, I think it’s hard to get a sincere apology. There are many ways in which I’m harmed and this whole thing is really irritating".
When Sword left the court, cvMax returned to the court and asserted that part of Sword’s testimony was false:
“First, about the part he’s lying about. Sword said that if he played bad, I made him lose words by saying “you did bad”... I never gave such low-quality feedback. He also said that he’s never gotten any consolation or encouragement. I’ve said this before: When I said, ‘You make the same mistakes over and over again. If you make the same mistake, will you accept any punishment?’ he answered, ‘Okay, I’ll do well’. When he made the same mistake, I gave him some tonic, saying, ‘You have to be healthy. You need to be healthy to play games well.’
Sword once mentioned on his stream, that ‘cvMax is really good in regular life, but if it gets related to the game… Usually, he’s a really good person’.
Another lie that Sword is telling is about the mediation by Riot when Sword and I met. It’s what Sword said to me, ‘The violence on February 9, this incident isn’t important. In the Worlds interview, Park “Viper” Do-hyeon and I both said the same things. Why did you only contradict my interview? I’m actually really mad about that so I’m here.’ This is all recorded by Riot, but Sword said that he never said this.
When Sword was living in the team house, I said, ‘I really like you as a person. But you can’t be good at this game by being a good person. You need to become spiteful in-game. I want to shoot Michelin Youtube videos with you and travel with you’. We had deep and friendly conversations like this, but I told him to be more spiteful in the gaming world for us to win.
The feedback Sword said I gave, ‘You can’t do this?’ making him lose all words… With this low-quality feedback, the team would be doomed. I’ve never ruined the team. The reason he said that he didn’t file a lawsuit back on February 9 even if there was violence was not to ruin the team… Then he should have sued about February 9 as soon as I left the team. This doesn’t make sense because when I left the team, Sword said positive things until the interview, that he hoped I did well, and that he wanted me to become an adult.”
The justice department decided that cvMax’s comments were just pointing out the credibility of the whole testimony and did not call Sword back in. The next trial will be held in November or later, after all of the 2020 LoL World Championship is concluded. In the trial, Son and Byun will be attending as witnesses.