Whittier Bus Driver Convicted in Death of Paul Lee Distracted With Affair At Time of Incident
Armando Abel Ramirez, the bus driver convicted of dependent adult abuse resulting in the death of Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, was distracted by an affair with a fellow bus company employee when he failed to ensure the 19-year-old autistic student had exited the bus for school. Sexually explicit text messages documented in a Whittier Police Department report and obtained by Panish Shea & Boyle LLP provide detailed correspondence between Ramirez and his lover as they coordinate their sexual tryst and offer a definitive timeline of where the driver was as Paul remained trapped aboard a school bus on one of the hottest days of the year.
“He took his attention away from Paul and onto his phone, onto those text messages and rushed away from work to go have sex,” PSB attorney Robert Glassman told KTLA. “With these text messages we can cross-reference the time on the text messages with the time the bus pulled up in front of the school and we can see that he was texting at the exact moment that he was supposed to be off-boarding Paul.”
Brian Panish, Rahul Ravipudi and Robert Glassman of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP and Sang Yun of Yun Law Firm represent the Lee family in a wrongful death case against Ramirez, Pupil Transportation Cooperative (PTC) – the bus company responsible for transporting Paul Lee to and from school – and the Whittier Union High School District where he attended. Testimony obtained in deposition from the female bus company employee and Ramirez confirmed the two were having an affair at the time of the incident and that PTC “bosses” were aware employees were engaging in this type of activity. The woman also admitted she felt guilty that while she and Ramirez were having sex, “this kid was dying, and we were laughing.”
Following his bus route on September 11, 2015, Ramirez had returned the bus to the yard and given the “all-clear” that it was empty before leaving for the day. However when Paul failed to return home from school, his body was discovered more than seven hours later aboard that same bus parked at the Whittier Union High School District lot operated by Pupil Transportation Cooperative.
“I was shocked and I just couldn’t believe that someone who is in charge of taking care of people that need help would be so cavalier,” Brian Panish told KABC. “The parents entrusted this child to this school district and this bus company and they totally breached that trust.” Five months following the incident, Pupil Transportation Cooperative admitted in discovery that the conduct of its driver was a cause of Paul’s death and that the bus company was vicariously liable. PTC also noted that the Whittier Union High School District knew of the special needs student’s limitations and shared in the responsibility of his death.
Trial in this case is scheduled to begin May 15, 2017 in Norwalk, California.
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Read the Whittier Daily News report here
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