School Bus Driver Pleads Guilty In Death of Autistic Student Hun Joon “Paul” Lee
The bus driver responsible for the death of Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, a 19-year-old autistic student left aboard a Whittier school bus in September 2015, was remanded into custody on Friday after pleading guilty to one count of felony dependent abuse resulting in death as part of a plea agreement with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Under the agreement, 37-year-old Armando Abel Ramirez will receive two years in state prison in exchange for the guilty plea. If convicted at trial as charged, he could have faced a maximum sentence of nine years in state prison. Prior to the agreement with the prosecution, the bus driver had plead not guilty to the same charge at his arraignment in April 2016.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 30, 2017 in Norwalk Superior Court.
Mr. Ramirez worked as a substitute bus driver for Pupil Transportation Cooperative (PTC) which provides bus service to Whittier Union High School District, including Sierra Vista Adult School where Paul attended. The non-verbal, special needs student tragically died on one of the hottest days in September 2015 after being left unattended on a PTC school bus for over seven (7) hours.
“We want to thank everyone who worked, mourned and prayed with us in the months following the death of our beloved son Paul,” said Paul’s mother, Eun Ha Lee. “Whatever prison sentence the bus driver ultimately receives, our family cannot be content or satisfied as the life of our precious son was taken away as a result of his negligence. Paul cannot return to our family and, today, we feel the pain of losing him even more. We hope that Paul’s death will not be in vain and that our community will work together to help, love and provide justice to children of special needs.”
Panish Shea & Boyle LLP and the Yun Law Firm represent the Lee family in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Pupil Transportation Cooperative and the Whittier Union High School District. In February 2016, the bus company admitted in discovery in the civil case that it was vicariously liable and the conduct of its driver was the cause of Paul’s death.