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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Uber Driver Charged with Misdemeanor Battery for Assault

Posted By on Tue, Jun 3, 2014 at 5:05 PM

click to enlarge Whitemire's license plate - JAMES ALVA
  • James Alva
  • Whitemire's license plate
James Alva took to social media after an UberX driver allegedly assaulted him during what was supposed to be a routine trip home in November. At the time, Alva may have thought he had no recourse. Police hadn't detained the driver, 28 year-old Daveea Whitmire -- who, it turned out, had prior felony convictions. Uber's community manager Matthew Hearns eventually called and offered to refund the 3 minute, $14 ride, during which Alva says he was shoved and subjected to a flurry of racial slurs. But now he's found a sympathetic ear in District Attorney George Gascon, who announced Tuesday that he would charge Whitmire with misdemeanor battery. See also: Uber passenger turns to social media after alleged assault.

It's a surprising turn of events for a city that's long been protective of its transit start-ups, even as they flout airport regulations and cripple the city's taxi industry.

Perhaps San Francisco is finally trying to make an example of a company that's long been let off the hook. Massive outcry over the death of 6 year-old Sofia Liu -- who was killed by an Uber driver while crossing the street with her family -- turned public sentiment against the once-beloved company, which immediately distanced itself from the incident.

By that point, Uber had already rankled local cab drivers and public transit buffs. It soon faced the wrath of public safety advocates, as well. Within a few weeks, an ad hoc group of detractors had launched an Internet campaign against the company,

According to Forbes, Whitmire is only the second driver to face criminal charges from an incident while driving for the company -- though it's worth noting that Syed Muzzafar was trolling for fares when he fatally hit Liu. (A DA spokesman says that case is still under investigation.)

Still, it's hard to say whether the Whitmire prosecution affects Uber, given that the company isn't being charged. It might induce management to perform better background checks. Or it might be inconsequential.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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