Ex-Hyundai Exec Back in OC for Manslaughter Case

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Arraignment is scheduled Monday for an ex-Hyundai executive extradited from South Korea on vehicular manslaughter and DUI charges stemming from a 2005 crash in Santa Ana that allegedly followed a night of heavy drinking with co-workers.

Youn Bum Lee, 42, formerly of Irvine, arrived in Orange County on Friday to face charges stemming from the death of 23-year-old Ryan Dallas Cook of Fountain Valley, said Farrah Emami of the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Lee returned to his native country just 24 hours after the accident, which occurred shortly after midnight on Oct. 19, 2005, near Dyer Road on the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway in Santa Ana, Emami said.

A request for extradition was filed by the Orange County District Attorney's Office last September, and Lee was arrested on Dec. 2, she said.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Santa Ana on one felony count each of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated, gross vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence causing bodily injury and hit-and-run causing death.

Lee, whose bail will be set at $1 million, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of all counts, Emami said.

Around 8 p.m. on Oct. 18, 2005, Lee attended a company-sponsored dinner at Seoul Oak Korean BBQ Restaurant in Garden Grove with six other co-workers from Hyundai Motor America, Emami said.


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The group consumed 14 bottles of soju, a distilled Korean rice wine, before going to a karaoke bar on Garden Grove Boulevard, where the defendant is accused of consuming more alcoholic drinks before getting behind the wheel of a black company-issued Hyundai SUV.

He allegedly drove with his headlights off from the Garden Grove (22) Freeway to the 55 Freeway, where he headed south, Emami said.

He is accused of veering into the carpool lane and crashing into the center median due to intoxication. His SUV rolled backwards and came to a stop in the carpool lane, south of Dyer Road. Cook, who was on his way home, was unable to stop in time to avoid hitting Lee's unlit vehicle, Emami said.

The Golden West College student was thrown from his motorcycle and run over by several other vehicles. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lee allegedly fled at a high rate of speed. He arrived at work later in the morning, allegedly parking his car in such a way as to try to hide evidence of the crash, which included a shattered back windshield and blood, hair and human tissue from Cook, Emami said.

After allegedly consulting with a colleague who had been at the company dinner, as well as with general counsel at Hyundai Motor America, Lee was driven to Los Angeles International Airport by a co-worker and a supervisor to board a plane to Seoul, leaving his wife and young child behind, Emami said.

In a prepared statement issued Friday afternoon, attorney Wylie Aitken, who is representing the victim's parents in a wrongful death lawsuit, alleged that the "co-equal culprits" are "the Hyundai Corporation itself and its executive and management personnel whose culture created this tragedy in the first instance and ... aided and abetted his (Lee's) escape ..."

The civil case is set for trial on June 1, the attorney said.

Carlton and Janet Cook expressed thanks for the efforts to extradite Lee to Orange County to face charges stemming from their son's death, saying his return is a step toward obtaining justice for the family.

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