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Ride-share app Uber got some unwanted publicity this week, as two Uber drivers were accused of committing crimes in separate incidents -- one for an alleged kidnapping and another for an alleged assault.
In Los Angeles, LA Weekly reports that a 26-year-old clubgoer woke up in a motel room with an Uber driver shirtless next to her on the bed.
And in a separate incident in San Francisco, an UberX driver has been accused of shouting slurs at a customer and striking him when he tried to photograph the driver's car's license plate.
Here's what happened in the Los Angeles case: An unidentified woman was drunk outside of Greystone Manor early Monday when a nightclub worker asked an Uber driver to take her home.
Typical Uber rides require a rider to request a ride via Uber's app, but LA Weekly reports that Uber driver Frederick Dencer, 32, kept this ride "off-the-books." Final destination: a nearby motel.
Dencer's motives may have been partially pure -- the woman did claim he tried to fondle her over her clothes -- but his actions likely constitute kidnapping. Intoxicated or not, the victim probably didn't ask Dencer to take her to a motel with him -- she wanted to go home. In California, kidnapping is serious felony which can carry a minimum sentence of three years in prison.
Uber released a statement Tuesday, expressing concern for rider safety but also denying liability for the incident. The company was quick to point out Dencer was not logged into the Uber app at the time of the alleged crime.
In Northern California, 28-year-old San Francisco resident James Alva was allegedly assaulted, physically and verbally, by UberX driver Daveea Whitmore. According to SFist, Whitmore called Alva a "dirty Mexican f----t" and then struck him several times when Alva attempted to take photos of the driver and his car's license plate.
Since the California Public Utility Commission began regulating ride-share apps in 2013, UberX and other ride-share drivers have been required to pass background checks. Pando Daily reports that Whitmore had "at least one felony conviction involving prison time" involving marijuana sales, despite Uber's "zero-tolerance" policy for drug offenses.
Whitmore has not been arrested for the alleged assault, but SFist reports District Attorney George Gascon has announced he would bring misdemeanor battery charges.
Uber is still trying to walk a thin line between government regulation and protecting itself from liability. The company is still attempting to shield itself from litigation over a girl killed by an Uber driver in San Francisco on New Year's Eve 2014.
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