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#1-1974 L-48 4spd Cp Med Red Metallic/Black deluxe int w/AC/tilt/tele./p/w-p/b/ Am-Fm/map light National/Regional/Chapter NCRS "Top Flight" #2-1985 Bright Red/Carmine Cp.L-98/auto Member: NCRS, NCRS Texas, Corvette Legends of Texas

Joined: 11/8/2003
Posts: 19449

Toyota's unintended acceleration problems mean freedom for Minn. man

Emily Gurnon
Automotive News | August 6, 2010 - 2:02 pm EST


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A Minnesota man has been released from a vehicular homicide conviction because of safety doubts about the Toyota Camry he was driving when he killed three people in 2006.

Ramsey County, Minn., District Judge Joanne Smith vacated the conviction of Koua Fong Lee, 32, who had been sentenced to an eight-year sentence for killing a man and two young children.

Carolyn Trice, mother and grandmother of those killed, said she was happy that an innocent man was going free.

All told, Toyota has recalled 11.2 million vehicles globally -- including 9.2 million in the United States -- for sticky pedals and other defects since last fall. The automaker in April agreed to pay a record $16.4 million U.S. fine over delayed defect notifications related to the sticky pedal problems.

The 2006 accident involved Lee ramming his 1996 Camry into the rear of an Oldsmobile Ciera sedan, killing its three occupants. During his trial, Lee steadfastly maintained on the witness stand that he was stepping on the brake, but the car would not stop.

During the trial, his attorney told jurors in his closing argument that Lee must have been accidentally stepping on the accelerator, rather than the brake.

The judge ruled that Lee's attorney had erred by not presenting the evidence that Lee had been stepping on the brake, and by failing to uncover evidence that existed at the time about defects arising from unintended acceleration.

Shortly after the judge's ruling, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said she would not pursue a new trial or appeal the court's ruling.

“I respect the judge, and I respect her ruling, and I believe it is time to bring this very tragic situation to a close,” Gaertner said in a written statement.

While having his conviction vacated, the manslaughter charges will remain on Lee's record, he will remain on probation for 15 years, and will have no driving privileges for 10 years.

The family of the victims killed in the crash have since filed suit against Toyota.

ENLARGE
Koua Fong Lee and his wife, Panghoua Moua, appear at a press conference after his release Thursday from the Ramsey County, Minn., Jail.

Photo credit: Ben Garvin/St. Paul Pioneer Press


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