first Uber ride ends in sexual assault charge
an evening of cocktails in San Diego, a woman got into the back
of an Uber for a ride home. She was so intoxicated she had to
ask the driver to stop so she could vomit. She says she then
passed out in the backseat.
she regained consciousness, the Uber driver was on top of her,
raping her, a block from her home, according to the police
report and two sources familiar with the investigation.
was able to escape and dial 911.
later arrested the Uber driver, John David Sanchez, 54. When
they searched his computer, they found videos of Sanchez raping
women and abusing young teenagers, dating back at least five
November, Sanchez was sentenced to 80 years in prison for the
rape of the Uber passenger and 33 other counts against him,
including sexual assaults of at least nine other women and
children. Sanchez drugged many of his victims.
CNN investigation has found that Sanchez is just one of at least
103 Uber drivers in the U.S. who have been accused of sexually
assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years.
The drivers were arrested, are wanted by police, or have been
named in civil suits related to the incidents. At least 31
drivers have been convicted for crimes ranging from forcible
touching and false imprisonment to rape, and dozens of criminal
and civil cases are pending, CNN found.
is no publicly available data for the number of sexual assaults
by Uber drivers or for drivers of other rideshare companies.
CNN's analysis comes from an in-depth review of police reports,
federal court records and county court databases for 20 major
Uber drivers accused of assault or abuse
another case examined by CNN, a woman from Miami left her kids
with their grandmother and went to a bar with a friend. She took
an Uber home. She says she passed out along the way and woke up
the next morning with her pants and underwear on the floor.
Uber driver allegedly carried her into her apartment, threw her
onto the bed and sexually assaulted her. She is a plaintiff in a
proposed class action lawsuit against Uber.
are pretty much hitchhiking with strangers," she told CNN. "How
many people is it going to take to get assaulted before
something is done?"
to police, the driver told them he knew the victim had been
drinking and was "wrong for what he did." He pleaded not guilty
for sexual battery and awaits trial.
woman in Long Beach, California, who alleges she fell asleep
intoxicated in the back of an Uber in 2016, told CNN that she
woke up with the driver assaulting her. The driver, 47, was
found the next day with her phone and later arrested. He claimed
the sex was consensual and the district attorney dropped the
criminal case against him. She is suing Uber over the incident
and for representing its services as "safe."
don't think it will happen to you," she told CNN. "I still feel
ashamed ... that's why I'm here. I want a voice. [I'm] tired of
'We want to be part of the solution'
which launched in 2010 in San Francisco as "everyone's private
driver," is the most valuable privately-held tech startup in the
world. It is valued at $70 billion and operates in 630 cities
worldwide. Uber provides 15 million rides a day.
issue of sexual assault conflicts with Uber's brand messaging to
provide a "safe ride home." Its print and digital ads show women
taking Ubers for nights out, and a partnership with Mothers
Against Drunk Driving includes a "designated
urging users to take an Uber to avoid driving under the
influence. In 2015, Uber set up
a popup kiosk
Toronto to offer free rides to those who blew into
is significant given many of the women raped or attacked by the
103 accused drivers uncovered as a part of CNN's investigation
had been drinking, or were inebriated, at the time of the
majority of the police reports reviewed by CNN involved
incidents that took place in or near major cities across the
country. Uber did not provide numbers on how many of its drivers
have been accused of sexual assaults.
drivers across various states told CNN they were not provided
any kind of sexual harassment or assault training. Drivers agree
to the company's community
they sign up to work for the service. Uber said it updated its
standards in December 2016 to specify no sexual contact is
permitted when using its platform.
week, the company posted a
sexual assault prevention video
its website to inform drivers and riders "how to create a safer
community." It also said it plans to host 50 community forums
nationwide for advocates, leaders, drivers and riders across to
talk about the issue. The changes came after CNN first contacted
Uber about this story.
was made aware of CNN's reporting for this story months ago but
the company failed to make any executives available to speak on
the record. It canceled an on-camera interview with an Uber
executive earlier this month.
a call with CNN last week for an unrelated story, Uber CEO Dara
Khosrowshahi said cracking down on sexual assault is a "new
priority for us."
is a priority that I expect to remain a priority for the
foreseeable future," said Khosrowshahi, who joined the company
in late August after cofounder Travis Kalanick stepped down.
a recent statement sent to CNN, an Uber spokesperson said safety
is the company's top priority this year and cited recent
as rerunning driver background checks on an annual basis moving
forward. The company also said it plans to roll out a dedicated
"safety center" within the Uber app where riders can designate
contacts they want to share trip details with while they ride;
it will also have an emergency button allowing users to call 911
from inside the app.
is just a start and we are committed to doing more," the
spokesperson said. "Sexual assault is a horrible crime that has
no place anywhere. While Uber is not immune to this societal
issue, we want to be part of the solution to end this violence
an Uber competitor that provides one million rides daily in the
United States and Canada, is also dealing with sexual assaults
by its drivers. A similar CNN review using the same methodology
found 18 cases of Lyft drivers accused in the past four years.
Four drivers have been convicted.
safety of the Lyft community is our top priority," said a Lyft
spokesperson, adding it has "worked hard to design policies and
features that protect our community."
said it reviews the records of driver candidates that are
surfaced to the company by its background check provider. It
said any serious criminal convictions, like sexual assault, sex
crimes against children and kidnapping, would disqualify
company previously didn't have a uniform policy on rerunning
criminal background checks. But when pressed by CNN, a
spokesperson said in January it started running screenings on
drivers every two years in mid-2017. In addition to its recent
announcement about annual background checks on drivers, Uber
plans to monitor new criminal offenses (via public records or
pending DUI charges) as they happen.
found two instances in which drivers pleaded guilty to sexual
assaults while working for both Uber and Lyft.
one case, a Seattle driver began driving for Lyft after Uber
discharged him, according to court documents. He later sexually
assaulted a Lyft rider. In the other case, a driver pleaded
guilty in San Diego to indecent exposure and the false
imprisonment of an Uber passenger, as well as battery for a
separate incident involving a Lyft passenger.
are tracking reported crimes by drivers
the 103 Uber drivers accused of sexual assault or abuse, for 18
of them, criminal cases did not move forward either because
charges were dropped, cases were dismissed, or drivers were
found not guilty.
district attorneys and police officers who spoke to CNN said
cases don't move forward for several reasons, such as lacking a
probable cause or witness cooperation.
addition to finding the 103 drivers accused of crimes or named
in a civil lawsuit, CNN contacted more than 20 police
departments to obtain data on complaints that involved Uber or
Lyft drivers and sexual assault. Four police departments --
Austin, Boston, Denver and Los Angeles -- tracked crimes
involving rideshare drivers and shared their data on sexual
did not include most of these complaints in its tally of cases,
because they could not all be verified with incident reports.
the numbers suggest that there may be many more overall
incidents of sexual assault than the 103 cases found in the CNN
Boston Police Department received 24 complaints or reports of
Uber drivers allegedly sexually assaulting passengers since
2016. The department received three assault-related complaints
involving Lyft drivers during the same period.
2016, the Los Angeles Police Department has received at least 13
similar complaints about Uber drivers, eight regarding Lyft
drivers and more than a dozen about ride-share drivers whose
companies were unclear in data shared with CNN. Only one of
those cases led to an arrest.
Austin, police have documented at least 16 sexual assault
complaints about Uber drivers -- and at least ten about Lyft
drivers -- since 2015.
the Denver police department has recorded at least nine sexual
assault or abuse complaints about Uber drivers and at least 12
about Lyft drivers since 2015, but only two of those complaints
resulted in criminal charges. Most of the other Denver cases
became inactive due to lack of witness cooperation or were
refused by the district attorney for lack of evidence.
Uber has been 'keeping this story quiet'
Christensen, an attorney with law firm Wigdor LLP, has been
pursuing Uber rape and assault cases since 2015 when her firm
filed a lawsuit after a high-profile rape case in New
The Uber driver, who had a previous record that included rape
and molestation, was sentenced to life in prison. The incident
sparked protests and caused authorities to temporarily
the city for six weeks.
recently, Christensen's firm represents a proposed class action
against Uber on behalf of nine plaintiffs, including the Miami
woman CNN interviewed, who said they were assaulted by Uber
is trying to compel the women to carry out their case through
arbitration per its legal terms of service. When users sign up
for Uber, they agree to its terms, which includes resolving
an individual basis in arbitration."
and the women are pushing back. In a letter to Uber's board, 14
women detailed their experiences and urged
remove its arbitration clause, saying it silences them and
forces the issue underground.
trusted a company operating in the space of transportation for
hire to mean what it says, and we never thought that Uber would
perpetuate physical violence against women," they wrote.
passenger alleging rape speaks
Uber spokesperson previously issued a statement to CNN about
forcing the case into arbitration, calling it the "appropriate
venue for this case because it allows the plaintiffs to publicly
speak out as much as they want and have control over their
individual privacy at the same time."
the years, Christensen said she noticed a trend in those who've
come to her firm for help: Victims tend to be female and petite,
live alone, and were inebriated at the time of the alleged
assault, she told CNN.
a driver is going to enter her home, he has [likely] asked her
enough questions and knows she lives alone," she said.
-- who said she's currently representing 16 women who alleged
they've been been raped or attacked by Uber drivers -- will not
say how many cases against Uber her firm has handled, citing
attorneys across the country were similarly silent about their
cases against Uber. Like many large companies, Uber requires all
parties to sign a confidentially agreement when a case is
aren't simply filing cases so Uber [can] pay women money and
their lawyers to be quiet about it," she told CNN. "That was a
conscious decision that we made. Uber has done a miraculous job
at keeping this story quiet."
Additional reporting by CNN's Majlie de Puy Kamp, Collette
Richards and Whitney Clegg.