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Suspect Arrested in First Degree Sexual Abuse in Alleged Uber Driver Cleveland Park Assault Case. Update: Charges Dropped

by Prince Of Petworth — March 14, 2013 at 10:39 am 62 Comments

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Back in mid-December there was a report on the Cleveland Park listserv of an Uber driver who had allegedly sexually assaulted a woman on the 3200 block of 36th Street NW. An arrest in that case has now been made.

From MPD:

The Metropolitan Police Department has announced that an arrest has been made in the First Degree Sexual Abuse that occurred in the 3200 block of 36th Street, NW.

On Saturday, December 8, 2012, at approximately 3:00 am, an adult female who had hired a cab service was sexually assaulted while in the 3200 block of 36th Street, NW.

After an investigation by members of the Sexual Assault Unit, a warrant was issued for 35 year-old Anouar Habib Trabelsi of Alexandria, VA, charging him with First Degree Sexual Abuse.

On March 13, 2013, Mr. Trabelsi was arrested by members of the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force.

Ed. Note: Representatives from Uber will be releasing a statement shortly at which point I will update here.

Statement from Rachel Holt, Washington, DC General Manager, Uber:

Immediately upon being told that a driver for Capitol Limo, a limo company utilizing Uber technology, was suspected of committing a crime, we deactivated the partner account. He has not done a single ride through Uber since then. We have worked closely with the police and prosecutors investigating this incident, and will continue to help them in any way possible. The safety of our users is absolutely paramount, and we will continue to be vigilant that riders’ safety and security are protected.

Update 5:45pm:

NBC Washington reports:

“The attorney for Anouar Habib Trabelsi, 35, of Alexandria, said his client is cooperating with police and maintains the sex was consensual. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continued to investigate the woman’s allegations and charges could be brought again.”

From the Washington Post:

“District prosecutors on Thursday said they will not charge a limo driver who city police had arrested and accused of raping a 20-year-old customer outside her home in December.”

  • caroline

    This is sad. I stopped taking DC cabs after being sexually assaulted by a cab driver, but I had the impression that Uber was safer. It’s good to know the Uber drivers are at least being held accountable for their actions, but I guess cabs of any kind are still a bad idea for females traveling alone.

    • Marcus Aurelius

      The only way it is arguably “safer” is that there is a record of the vehicle being dispatched to the call. Theoretically, the increased likelihood of getting caught will be a disincentive to assaulting a passenger. But there are lots of irrational actors out there.

      • caroline

        Yeah– I think I’ll stick with the bus. No need to pay 10+ times as much and potentially put myself in a bad situation.

        • Sebrof

          You’re right. Nothing bad has ever happened on a bus

          • Anonymous

            I guess you’re talking about the Delhi incident? It seems like it would be hard for a group of rapists to acquire a Metrobus, pick up a random girl, and attack her without anyone noticing.

          • Rococo

            I think the comment makes more sense referencing our own DC bus system and the occasional violent incidents that happen in it. No need to look around the world when plenty of incidents happen here. I say this as an avid bus rider.

          • Anonymous

            When have women been raped on a bus in DC? I feel that’s a lot less likely to happen on a bus than in a cab because there are usually other people on the bus and the bus has a set route. In a cab there’s no witnesses and the driver has the power to take you to a dark empty parking lot or wherever.

  • KenyonDweller

    Gee, I can’t help but recall all the Uber apologists who actually believed that this was a hoax by the taxicab industry to undermine their precious Uber. So sorry for the victim and am glad that this dirtbag was arrested.

    • Anonymous

      I remember that thread. The Uber apologists were out in full force screaming conspiracy.

      • Roz

        I think the phrase “uber apologists” is funny.

    • It’ll be interesting to see how many of the conspiracy theorists admit their knee-jerk irrationalism. Not many, I’ll wager. Anyway, this story doesn’t make Uber the bad guy. Just like any company that has employees or contractors, some might be bad apples that get through screening (don’t know how or if Iber does this). If Uber did the right thing (as they claim they did), then this is on the degenerate driver, not Uber.

      • Anonymous

        I’d have to go back and look to be sure, but I seem to remember a lot of “knee-jerk irrationalism” and not just by the “Uber-apologist conspiracy theorists”. A lot of people voiced some very strong opinions based pretty much on zero information.

      • Anonymous

        I admit I was someone who thought it seemed implausible because of the trivial ease of tracking down an Uber driver thanks to the fact that there is an independent electronic tracing of their identity coupled with GPS tracking of their movements. Seemed to me like you’d have to be pretty dumb to do something like this. Well, looks like someone was dumb enough to do something like this. So, I was wrong in that sense, but the idea that you are safer with Uber than with Random McCabdriver who picks you up on the street definitely holds.

    • Well

      Well the initial story was that the victim was a “teenager”, not only that but it was at 3am on a school night. I think thats where the hoax/disbelief came from.

      • Yup this and the fact that there was no follow up although I suppose that makes perfect sense if there was an ongoing police investigation and the victim was told not to talk about it.

    • “Uber Apologist”

      I am sad to see the story was true and very sorry for the victim.

      I was one of those “uber apologists.” If you recall, the “conspiracy theory” was based in part from an obviously fake Yelp posting with a very similar story and the profile had a Taxi cab ID #. No one suggested there was an industry conspiracy – there were plenty of cab drivers out there who hated Uber, and at least one had done shaming on Yelp (which, by the way, blamed Uber, not the dirtbag).

      I won’t admit that I had knee-jerk irrationalism and I think, at the time, there was reason for skepticism (again, the fake Yelp review, the fact WashPo never picked up the story, the fact the story went silent for months). I think the “knee-jerk” reaction to think it is crazy to see news and be skeptical while waiting for additional details before coming to conclusions, is in itself irrational.

      • KenyonDweller

        “No one suggested there was an industry conspiracy”

        On December 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm, someone posted, “THIS FICTIONAL STORY COMES TO YOU COURTESY OF THE DC TAXICAB COMMISSION AND THE DC TAXI DRIVERS’ UNION.” This is only one example. Lots of people were willing to go for the conspiracy theory.

        • “Uber Apologist”

          That’s fair. That wasn’t me. I, and many others, just expressed some skepticism based on the details we did know and did not know.

      • Nothing wrong with waiting for the facts to come in before making a decision. But that’s not what was on exhibit during that thread (or, for that matter, any posts discussing accidents involving a bicyclist and a car – spoiler alert – the driver is always 100% to blame). So while you might not have jumped to conclusions , several posters came out of the gate with wild conspiracy theories because they couldn’t stand to see a business they like put in a bad light, deserved or not.

    • AllTheThings

      Yeah, I felt like I was a crazy person for being the only one that didn’t scream “hoax!!” on that post.

    • SF

      Charges have now been dropped. I questioned this case from the beginning because something about it doesn’t sound right, and it was coming at a very sensitive time for the DC taxicab commission. I don’t use Uber and I don’t see why anybody questioning this would automatically be labeled an “uber apologist”.

      Now that the driver won’t be charged, we should all admit that it’s far from clear what happened here, and this guy, like everybody else, is innocent until proven guilty.

      Everybody here without question hopes that the woman who was allegedly (I have to use that word at this point given that we really have NO idea what’s really going on) attacked is okay and this story turns out not to be as horrific as it originally sounded.

      • Anonymous

        It’s not clear to me that the guy won’t be charged. The investigation is ongoing, right? I was one of the skeptics in the original thread (not one of the “Uber apologists”) and quite frankly I don’t think things are much clearer now than they were before.

      • AllTheThings

        It still sounds like they did have sex, though. Are you really trying to say that the Taxicab Commission would have someone have sex with an Uber driver just so they could theoretically be made to look unsafe??

        (I know you are not actually saying that. But.)

  • Anonymous

    While it’s a shame this happened at all, the benefit of Uber in this situation is because all info is logged the guilty person can be found and arrested. Meanwhile if this was a cab driver, it would be much harder to identify that person.

    • Anonymous


    • Anonymous

      Exactly. It’s hard to take down the driver’s info if he’s attacking you. Even if you write down his name or take a picture of his identification when you get in the cab (a good idea) you might have to abandon your purse if you have to flee.

    • I personally like to ride Uber, because they keep information on my rapist! Thanks Uber!

      Note: No one else who has been raped by Uber cab operators has ever filed a complaint!


      • Anonymous

        I feel safer knowing that the cab driver would probably be arrested and lose his job if he tried to do something to me, so he’s less likely to try. DC cab drivers have a lot more anonymity which makes them bolder.

    • Totally agree.
      This is shameful but it is good that the perp could be identified easily.

  • It took them this long to catch the guy? I mean, they knew who it was from the very beginning!

    • Anonymous

      Probably just had to wait that long for the next available trial slot.

      • That doesn’t make any sense. Scheduling trial does not dictate when a warrant is issued and the suspect arrested.

  • confused

    Y did it take 3 months to arrest this guy?

    • Anonymous

      If he was arrested by the Fugitive Task Force, I’m guessing it’s because he was hiding out and evading the law.

      • Yeah, the task force is overseen by the US Marshals. I doubt they would become involved if he was easily found.

    • ET

      Keep in mind that this also crossed state/district lines in terms of arresting. The assault was in DC but the drive seems to have lived in Virginia. DC police can’t just willy nilly cross jurisdictional lines and arrest someone. There is protocol involved.

  • Nicole

    Does anyone know if there are background check requirements for Uber drivers or DC cab drivers? Or what Uber’s own policy on that is?

    • Marcus Aurelius

      I don’t believe Uber owns any vehicles itself. The company contracts with car services who provide the vehicles and drivers. It’s really not Uber’s responsibility to make sure the vehicles and drivers are safe – I’m certain whatever contracts have been signed put this responsibility on the car services. (An exception would be contracting with a company that Uber knows to be unsafe.) But that doesn’t mean the company can’t or won’t find itself defending a lawsuit.

    • Taxi Driver

      I know there is background check for Dc taxis and limo drivers.But when it comes to Uber or any app dispatching there is loopholes.If you check Craigslist ad there are many ads from Uber drivers hiering another driver all they require is driving license.The others on i see unlicensed limo with Uber phone I blive some body passed there uber phone to thierd person .

  • Jay

    Relevant statute:

    A person found guilty of first degree sexual abuse in D.C. can fined up to $250,000 and sentenced to up to 30 years imprisonment. If the prosecution can prove certain aggravating circumstances (for example, that the victim sustained serious bodily injury as a result for the office), the defendant can be given a life sentence. D.C. Criminal Code 22-2002; D.C. Criminal Code 22-3020.

    According to this link:

  • The report from MPD is unclear as to when the warrant was issued. If it was issued right away, but took this long to find him in order to arrest him, the delay makes sense. However, if it took this long to issue the warrant, then it seems weird. Uber has the info to track this guy and I believe the original post indicated this was caught on camera by the home owner’s surveillance system.

    Props to Uber for shutting down the partnership with the company and not just excluding the driver. I assume this will provide a warning to other companies and who they hire (if they are not already screened according to the partnership agreement).

  • Thinking of this poor woman and thankful that this creep was caught. It does not give me a lot of confidence in my neighbors, however, when stories of sexual assaults turn into outlandish conspiracy theories or the conversation after a drive by shooting focuses on neighborhood boundaries. How self-centered and cynical do you have to be to not have a drop of empathy for the victims here? I’ve been a reader and resident for 5 years now, but this community has really reached its nadir with this saga (with maybe the Caribbean festival racism as the first runner up).

    • Anonymous

      you’re talking about a small minority of commentors.

  • Anon X

    People were rather ticked when, at the time, I suggested that their tin foil hats were tied a bit too tight.

    • SF

      It was a poorly reported story with a lot of holes at a very sensitive time for the DC Taxicab Commission. THAT’s why people have been skeptical, myself included.

  • Anonymous

    i’m glad so many of you were right. i for one would have preferred there was a conspiracy rather than the poor girl being raped.

    yay you.

    • Yay yourself for the most self-righteous post of the day! No one is happy that this girl experienced this. No one has even implied anything close to that. But when a large number of people label a crime a hoax in order to protect a company, that can’t feel too good for the victim or for her family (assuming they read the blog). I’m sure everyone feels terrible for the victim.

      • Anonymous

        maybe i’m self righteous, but the gloating is weird and creeps me out.

  • jem
    • Adam L

      Crack reporting, WaPo. “District” prosecutors didn’t drop anything; the US Attorneys did.

      • Anonymous

        Uh, you know you’re not on the “WaPo” site, right? Or are you just hitting all the local blogs to let everyone know that “WaPo” got a detail wrong?

      • District prosecutors are a part of the US Attorney’s Office, the WaPo’s term was right. Unlike the states, District crimes are prosecuted by fed lawyers. Nice try though.

  • Anonymous

    Sexual assault charges were dropped!?!?! This limo driver better be glad he’s not in the military. Congress and the media would have NEVER stood for this shit in that context (even though prosecutors are allowed to exercise this type of discretion everyday in the civilian context).

  • AllTheThings

    The sex was consensual?!

    Ugh, if this turns into one of those “she consented by being drunk and alone and she didn’t technically say NO” claims I am going to cry.

    • Anonymous

      What you described is not consent is not consent. Nobody contends that is consent. When these cases fall apart it’s usually because there is not enough evidence to convict the person. Remember, we do live in America, so you have to prove that they did it beyond a reasonable doubt.

      • AllTheThings

        Yeah, that is true. I was just basing a statement on the WaPo article, in which the driver is described as claiming the sex was consensual. But you’re right, consent may not be the issue here.

  • Again, the facts of the case aren’t clear. From the original “report” it was a teenage daughter caught being assaulted on tape in front of her house. I mean, I could be wrong, but 20 years old doesn’t constitute a “teenager” in the sense of someone in high school. Also, I find it highly suspicious that the guy had sex with her on her driveway. So still the facts don’t add up, which is because we the public really don’t have any of the facts

    • huh?

      …and then there was the line in the Post this weekend about surveillance footage allegedly showing her waving goodbye to the driver as he walked away from the house. it also reported that she had three vodka drinks and some reefer at a bar before going home. and that the driver allegedly propositioned her (according to her complaint). these is very little about this story that adds up at the moment.

      • wobble

        Actually – she claimed 4 drinks, and probably under-reported that. She is obviously living life dangerously. I have two daughters (who are sane and successful), but I know that things can go wrong. I feel for the parents, who must be thinking WTF?

        • Anonymous

          OK, it’s a minor point but every account that I read stated 3 drinks (including Washington Post and Washington Times). Where did you see four drinks?

          • wobble

            Yep – you are right. Three drinks was reported. Probably still understated, though.

    • wobble

      Very little about this case hangs together very well. DNA match, video of the arrival home, admission by the cabbie that they had at least some kind of sex — yet the prosecutors file no charges? If he really is guilty of rape, he is probably already ba in Morocco.

      Whatever the true story, I hope her parents get her some help. This is a quite wealthy part of town, and they should be able to afford it, and I think this woman clearly needs some quite intensive counselling.


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