Uber driver arrested for sexually assaulting teenage passenger

Uber driver arrested and charged with sex assault
Published: Apr. 20, 2016 at 4:43 AM HST|Updated: Apr. 20, 2016 at 4:55 PM HST
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MAKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A driver for the popular ride-sharing company Uber was charged Tuesday in the sex assault of a teenage passenger.

Luke Wadahara, 24, was charged with first-degree sex assault, which connotes forceful penetration.

Wadahara was arrested early Sunday, after the victim alleged she had been sexually assaulted during an Uber ride on Saturday night.

Sources said the victim is a 16-year-old girl.

She told police that she ordered an Uber ride at the Ala Moana Shopping Center on Saturday night, and her and her friends got picked up.

Wadahara allegedly dropped off her friends in Mililani, then headed toward Makiki to drop off the victim. But instead of taking her home, Wadahara allegedly made several wrong turns.

He then pulled over and allegedly attacked her. She said she eventually fought him off, then ran home.

The girl was taken to hospital for treatment, according to police sources.

Uber is growing in popularity in the islands, especially among young people, who can request rides through a smart phone app.

Honolulu City Council members said the incident adds an additional safety wrinkle to an ongoing debate in Honolulu over ride-sharing companies, and whether drivers need more government oversight.

"We have to keep track of whose out there driving … that driver should be in a central database, right now he's not," Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said.

Both the state and city are considering new rules for ride-sharing companies, such as Lyft and Uber.

On its website, Uber say "all driver-partners wanting to use the Uber platform are required to undergo a screening process, which is performed on our behalf by Checkr, which is nationally accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners."

Councilman Ron Menor, who chairs the committee on Public Health, Safety and Welfare Public Safety Committee, said he wants the city to regulate background checks for ride-sharing companies.

"Even if the representatives of these companies say they already conduct background checks, we don't know, government doesn't know whether or not these background checks are sufficient," Menor said.

"As the public safety chair, I believe that taxi and Uber drivers for example should be subject to criminal background checks. Taxi drivers have to go through these background checks that are overseen by the city government and Uber drivers should also be under the same regulations but they're not."

An Uber spokeswoman said: "Our thoughts are with the rider. The driver in question has been deactivated from the Uber platform, and we've reached out to law enforcement and will continue to assist in any way we can."

The City Council will take up Bill 85, tackling issues with ride-sharing companies, at its next City Council meeting on April 27.

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