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 jury didn’t believe him, 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?




  1. Greg Allen says:

    >> chuck said, on February 25th, 2010 at 3:43 pm
    >> I guess “doing everything he could” didn’t include putting the car into neutral or park.

    According to testimony of surviving victims, that doesn’t work. I have to admit this seems improbable from the cars I’ve owned but I also really don’t know how these high tech computer controlled cars work anymore.

    One of the dead victims was a California Highway Patrol officer who, I have no doubt, would keep his head in a situation like that.

  2. noname says:

    # 15 bdgbill,

    Your the only smart one in this group of idiots.

  3. admash says:

    I thought this was the interesting part:

    “Relatives of the victims — who condemned Lee at his sentencing three years ago — now believe he is innocent and are planning to sue Toyota.”

    Wow, I guess the discovery of a more lucrative law suit changes one’s perspective?

  4. noname says:

    # 23 admash,

    Right on, if Lee is guilty they can’t sue Toyota. It’s all about the money and power.

    Before the relatives felt empowered to watch an innocent man imprisoned. Now they fell impoverished because they can’t sue Toyota.

  5. … ] link is being shared on Twitter right now. @zenx, an influential author, said RT @1ndus: Xtreme … ]

  6. ScottLC says:

    No car’s acceleration can override it’s braking? You really believe that or you just pulled it out of thin air? I have at least two cars in the driveway right now whose brakes can’t hold them, one being a 70′s Eldo (front drive) and the other being a Jag(both 4 whl disc). From a standing start acceleration is minimal but at speed if the throttle were open I have no doubt stopping would be almost impossible.

    But most of the point here, at least with the new Toyo-crap: The brakes are electronically controlled as well as the throttle. The only brakes the driver even has in this situation is the cable controlled rear parking brake. This is insufficient stopping power for any car because the rear brakes do only a fraction of the energy reduction under any circumstances and even if they can stop the rear wheels there is little weight there. You’ll simply drag the tires.

    Whether this guy is guilty or not I have no idea, but it’s immaterial to the Toyota issue. They have a real problem and it’s going to cost them more than they may be able to pay.