Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hyundai executive who became fugitive gets nine years in California prison for DUI, vehicular manslaughter, and then fleeing the scene

In a follow-up to this story from last month and this story from four years ago, former Hyundai Motors executive Lee Youn Bum has been sentenced to nine years in prison. Last month, after being extradited to California from South Korea, he pled guilty to a felony count of vehicular manslaughter, gross negligence while intoxicated, and fleeing the scene of a crime.

The story is in the Los Angeles Times, with a longer account in the Orange County Register. Hyundai America headquarters, where Lee worked, is in Orange County, not far from Korean-style drinking establishments in the OC's Koreatown in Garden Grove.

After Lee left his crashed car stalled, with headlights off, in the carpool lane of an Orange County freeway when he was driving home severely intoxicated, a motorcyclist named Ryan Dallas Cook smashed into the vehicle and was thrown onto the freeway where he was struck by other cars and killed. Apparently with the help of some Hyundai employees, he fled to South Korea, where he was a fugitive for several years.

From the OCR:
Youn Bum Lee, 42, pleaded guilty in November to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with a sentencing enhancement for fleeing the scene of a crime for the early morning crash on Oct. 19, 2005, on the 55 freeway in Santa Ana that killed motorcyclist Ryan Dallas Cook, 23.

Youn Bum Lee, 42, formerly of Irvine, pleaded guilty to one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated, with a sentencing enhancement for fleeing the scene of a crime.

Lee sat with his head down in a courtroom holding cell as several of Cook's relatives and friends told Superior Court Judge Richard M. King how his death had impacted their lives.
Janet Cook, Ryan's mother, held a photo of her son and told Lee, "You can't imagine the pain that you put my family through."

Carlton Cook, Ryan's father, wept as he told Lee that he could never forgive him for fleeing the scene of the collision.
One wonders if the family will go after Hyundai Motors USA, some of whose employees were heavily involved in helping Lee flee. Hyundai later was cooperative in helping return Lee and getting former employees to testify against him. Nevertheless, if the family does sue, Hyundai should just settle with them for what they (reasonably) want. Their Korean-style corporate drinking culture has earned them some very bad karma and they have no right to gripe. Just pay.

1 comment:

  1. A couple of things stand out about this. One, I find it somewhat surprising that Hyundai manned up and helped in the prosecution of one of their own. Second, while I'm not a lawyer I would think that some of those employees who helped Mr. Lee flee would be on the hook for aiding and abetting a criminal suspect evade arrest. I doubt that this is over.


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