This week in “AWFUL,” an Uber driver has been charged with kidnapping for the purpose of sexual assault after taking an unconscious passenger to a motel instead of her home.
Let me just start by saying that I think the bigger story here is that the LAPD is f*cking awful. My God, those guys are awful…
It’s something of a familiar tale, but with a disruptive twist! Earlier this week, a 26-year-old woman got drunk at a nightclub in West Hollywood where the suspect, 32-year-old Frederick Dencer, was apparently hanging out after dropping off his last fare. The details get murky from there (because the LAPD is AWFUL), but authorities believe a valet solicited Dencer to take the woman home (though they also say in other statements that the woman requested the Uber ride).
The woman woke up the next morning in a Van Nuys motel beside a shirtless man she didn’t know, so she rightfully freaked the f*ck out and ran to a nearby 7-Eleven to call the police. Police found Dencer in the room where he had taken the woman, but he gave conflicting information. Authorities watched the surveillance video and saw Dencer carrying the unconscious woman into the room.
Ugh…God, I’m grossed out just writing that.
But here’s where it gets even grosser: LAPD Lieutenant Paul Vernon assures the world, “no sexual assault occurred”…right before he describes the sexual assault that occurred: “"There was some fondling through her clothes.”
And then Vernon actually manages to make the whole thing even more GOD DAMNED AWFUL:
"This is Dencer's first arrest," Vernon told reporters. "It looks like he made a rash decision to take advantage of a vulnerable woman, and he's not the first man to try that. The irony is, the victim was trying to be responsible by calling for a ride, but she unwittingly put herself in another vulnerable situation. Hopefully, others will learn from this, and thankfully she was not assaulted or injured."
Got that, ladies? What have we all learned here? DON’T GET KIDNAPPED AND ASSAULTED WHILE UNCONSCIOUS. I mean…a man’s life could be ruined because he made the RASH decision to kidnap and sexually assault an unconscious woman! WHAT KIND OF SICK WORLD DO WE LIVE IN?
Dencer was arrested for kidnapping for the purpose of sexual assault and is being held on $1 million bail.
Uber could not be reached for comment, but the company gave the following statement to Los Angeles reporters:
“Uber became aware this afternoon of a serious incident in Los Angeles. The facts are unknown at this stage and it’s certainly unclear that this is an Uber-related incident, as the driver in question was not logged in, connected to or operating on the platform at the time.”
And why wouldn’t someone log onto Uber to let the big guys know that he was about to kidnap and sexually assault a fare? I was half-expecting Uber to add, “and what was she wearing, anyway?”
“We have reached out to authorities and will work with them to help uncover the facts,” the company added. “It is also our policy to immediately suspend a driver’s account following any serious allegations, which we have done. Nothing is more important to Uber than the safety of our riders.”
I’m actually going to give Uber the benefit of the doubt here, because if this is, indeed, Dencer’s first arrest, then a background check wouldn’t have turned up much.
That said, it’s pretty lame that Uber can (and repeatedly does) abdicate all responsibility by simply saying that its drivers aren’t employees, they’re independent contractors, and if they commit a crime using their own vehicle (that they also use for Uber rides), that’s their prerogative.
This may be the first serious incident to occur since Uber started charging customers a $1 “Safe Ride Fee” earlier this year. The company said in April that the fee would support background checks, motor vehicle checks, driver safety education, insurance, and the development of safety features in the app. (Maybe they need to institute an additional $1 Don’t-Get-Kidnapped-And-Sexually-Assaulted Fee?)
While it may be the first incident to occur since the implementation of the Safe Ride Fee, it’s one of a string of incidents that have been linked back to Uber, including incidents in which drivers have taken creepy pictures of female passengers and then stalked them, drivers who managed to pass background checks despite having more than 20 traffic tickets, and even drivers who were stopped by police and arrested on-the-spot on other charges.