LINO LAKES, Minn. – Ever since his 1996 Toyota Camry shot up an interstate ramp, plowing into the back of an Oldsmobile in a horrific crash that killed three people, Koua Fong Lee insisted he had done everything he could to stop the car.
A , and a judge sentenced him to eight years in prison. But now, new revelations of safety problems with Toyotas have Lee pressing to get his case reopened and his freedom restored. Relatives of the victims — who condemned Lee at his sentencing three years ago — now believe he is innocent and are planning to sue Toyota. The prosecutor who sent Lee to prison said he thinks the case merits another look.
“I know 100 percent in my heart that I took my foot off the gas and that I was stepping on the brakes as hard as possible,” Lee said in an interview Wednesday at the state prison in Lino Lakes. “When the brakes were looked at and we were told that nothing was wrong with the brakes, I was shocked.”
Lee’s accident is among a growing number of cases, some long resolved, that are getting new attention since Toyota admitted its problems with sudden acceleration were more extensive than originally believed. Numerous lawsuits involving Toyota accidents have been filed over the recent revelations, and attorneys expect the numbers will climb. If Lee’s car was defective, “We don’t want an innocent man sitting in prison,” said Phil Carruthers, who prosecuted the case for Ramsey County.
A Toyota spokesman declined to comment on Lee’s case.
Could this problem go as far back as 1996? Wouldn’t it have been discovered sooner?