|For Immediate Release
Case # 07CF1356
December 7, 2009
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
SOUTH KOREAN FUGITIVE SENTENCED TO NINE YEARS IN STATE PRISON FOR KILLING 23-YEAR-OLD MOTORCYCLIST IN 2005 FREEWAY CRASH WHILE DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL
SANTA ANA – A South Korean fugitive was sentenced today to nine years in state prison for killing a motorcyclist in a 2005 freeway crash while under the influence of alcohol. Youn Bum Lee, 42, formerly of Irvine, pleaded guilty Nov. 10, 2009, 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.
At approximately 8:00 p.m. on Oct. 18, 2005, Lee attended a company sponsored dinner at Seoul Oak Korean BBQ Restaurant in Garden Grove with six co-workers from Hyundai Motor America. The group consumed 14 bottles of soju, a distilled Korean rice wine, before going to a nearby karaoke bar, 25 SI, on Garden Grove Boulevard. Lee consumed more alcoholic drinks at the karaoke bar before getting into his black company-issued Hyundai sport utility vehicle at approximately 12:05 a.m. on Oct. 19, 2005.
While under the influence of alcohol, Lee drove with his headlights off on State Route 22 onto State Route 55, heading southbound. The defendant veered into the carpool lane and crashed into the center median due to intoxication. Lee’s car rolled backward and came to a stop in the carpool lane south of Dyer Road in Santa Ana. Victim Ryan Dallas Cook, 23, Fountain Valley, was riding his motorcycle in the carpool lane on his way home. Cook was unable to stop in time to avoid crashing into Lee’s black, unlit car. The victim, a student at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, was ejected from his motorcycle and thrown onto the freeway, where he was run over by several other vehicles. Cook was pronounced dead at the scene due to multiple traumatic injuries from blunt force vehicle trauma. Lee fled the scene at a high rate of speed.
Later that morning, on Oct. 19, 2005, Lee arrived at work at Hyundai Motor America in Fountain Valley. He parked his car front-in in the parking lot, but returned five minutes later to move his car and back-in to the parking space. He attempted to hide the evidence from the crash, including a shattered back windshield and blood, hair, and other human tissue from the victim.
That morning, Lee consulted with a co-worker, whom he had been drinking with the night before, as well as with general counsel at Hyundai Motor America. The co-worker and a supervisor drove Lee to Los Angeles International airport that afternoon. At 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 20, 2005, just 24 hours after Cook was killed, Lee boarded a flight on Korean Air to Seoul, South Korea, leaving his wife and young child behind.
The case was investigated by the California Highway Patrol, and was filed by the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) Office in April 2007. In September 2008, the OCDA submitted a request for extradition. Lee was arrested on the fugitive warrant in Seoul, South Korea, on Dec. 2, 2008, by South Korean authorities. He was extradited to Orange County on Jan. 30, 2009.
To ensure that justice was served in this case, the OCDA requested Hyundai Motor America to assist the People in locating a key witness, Jason Ryu, who was believed to be living in South Korea, and convince him to provide truthful testimony during a conditional examination. The OCDA could not subpoena Ryu because he lives in South Korea. Hyundai Motor America was under no legal obligation to produce this witness.