Prosecutors drop rape investigation against former Uber driver

April 4, 2013

The U.S. attorney’s office will not prosecute a driver for a luxury sedan service who was briefly arrested last month after being accused of raping a 20-year-old customer in the driveway of her Northwest Washington home, authorities said Thursday.

The decision closes a case that raised questions about the reliability of drivers under contract to Uber, a popular alternative to taxis, and exposed a rare public division between police and prosecutors over whether there was sufficient evidence to support an arrest.

Statements by the woman and the suspect differed over whether sexual contact was consensual, and physical evidence contradicted statements given by both parties about what happened Dec. 8 outside the $2.2 million home in the Cleveland Park neighborhood.

D.C. police secured a warrant in February that had been approved by the U.S. attorney’s office and a Superior Court judge, and arrested a suspect March 13. But the next day, prosecutors declined to file charges, saying the case needed more investigation. By that time, police had publicized the suspect’s name at a televised news conference, saying he had been charged with first-degree sexual abuse.

Prosecutors said at the time that the case would remain open, but the driver, 35, was freed from jail before his court arraignment.

Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said Thursday that the office has now “concluded the investigation without filing charges. Beyond that we have no comment.”

Police would not discuss the case Thursday, but last month, Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham said that the evidence was strong. “We all believed we had a case,” he said.

The limo driver, whose contract with Uber was rescinded in December, did not return a message left on his wife’s voice mail or a request made through a friend. The driver’s wife said last month that her husband is innocent and that the passenger made advances to him.

The woman who said she was raped could not be reached Thursday, nor could her parents. A representative from Uber refused to discuss the case.

The incident occurred after the woman had been ejected from a U Street bar because she appeared inebriated. She told police she had consumed three vodkas and smoked a marijuana joint with a friend.

The woman contacted Uber, which allows customers to order cars and pay for rides with their smartphones. She told police that her driver made unwanted verbal advances as they headed to her house, according to the detective’s application for an arrest warrant filed in D.C. Superior Court. She said she got out and walked up her driveway after settling her $36 bill.

The accuser told police that the driver attacked her from behind, grabbed her arms and spun her around, after which she fell and hit her head. She said he held her arms down, kissed her and raped her.

The woman told police she got up, went inside and then went to a hospital. With police help, she was able to retrieve her receipt with the driver’s name and photo, along with the time he picked her up and got her home.

The driver told police that the passenger initiated sexual contact while they were parked in her driveway, according to court documents. He said they engaged in consensual oral sex, but he denied having had intercourse. He said he carried her to the driveway and put her down, and then she got up and walked inside.

Police obtained the driver’s DNA through a court-ordered warrant and matched it to semen found inside the woman, apparently contradicting the driver’s account that intercourse did not occur, according to the affidavit.

Police said a security video shows a man carrying the woman up the driveway, but what happened there is blocked by a garage. The same video later shows the woman walking to her side door “and appears to show the complainant wave to the male subject.” The reports states that the woman “has no memory of having done so.”

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