Koua Fong Lee, the 32-year-old Minnesota man who was jailed after the Toyota he was driving was involved in a fatal crash, has been released from prison. He has served over two years on his sentence. The judge who presided over the man’s criminal trial ruled that the case should get a retrial after new evidence came to light. The county prosecutor has since said that Fong Lee will not face any further charges. The accident occurred in 2006 when the car Lee was driving hit a vehicle as he left the St. Paul freeway. Three people in the car died. Mr. Lee always insisted that he tried to brake, but his case didn’t get reviewed until it became public knowledge that Toyota was facing acceleration problems with a number of its later models.
Mr. Lee was charged and convicted of criminal vehicular homicide and received an eight-year sentence. The family of the three people killed in the accident came out in favor of Lee’s efforts to be granted a new trial. Toyota’s safety problems obviously played a major role in Mr. Lee being released from prison. When you consider how the accident occurred, it’s clear that the Toyota vehicle had some type of problem. Mr. Lee’s lawyer, Brent Schafer, had this to say:
This never seemed right. A man with his family in the car — his pregnant wife — goes on a suicide mission? Then, the recalls started, and the complaints sounded just like what happened to Mr. Lee. It sounds just like a case of unintended acceleration.
It’s very sad that an innocent man was not only charged with vehicular homicide, but that he served time in prison. For years, Toyota has successfully blamed victims for causing sudden accelerations that resulted in crashes. This is one example and it cost a man two years of his life.
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