By on August 15, 2016

Uber (freestocks.org/Flickr)

Uber claims it conducts lengthy background checks for all of its would-be drivers, but an investigation conducted in the wake of an alleged Boston-area rape says otherwise.

Darnell Booth, 34, of Dorchester, Massachusetts stands accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl while working for the company. The crime, allegedly committed  in early July, gives anti-Uber foes another weapon, and calls the company’s vetting process into question.

The alleged victim claims she met Booth when he Ubered her to Everett on June 30. She claims he then added her to Snapchat on July 4, and sent a message about being outside her house. She didn’t leave the property, but needed to use Uber the next day. That’s when the alleged rape occurred. Booth was arrested last Wednesday.

Uber claims it thoroughly vets its drivers, looking back more than seven years, but an investigation by WCVB turned up a long list of red flags. According to the news team, Booth has an eight-page criminal record, has served more than two jail sentences, and was once arrested for selling drugs in a school zone. One of the sentences (for assaulting a corrections officer) was well within the seven-year vetting window.

Booth began working for the company in February, and is now permanently banned. That does nothing to ease existing worries about Uber’s drivers. For those who think the charge is simply hearsay, prosecutors in the case say they have DNA evidence linking Booth to the assault.

Uber operates in over 500 cities worldwide. Since its launch, the ride-sharing company has raised the ire of cabbies (who claim lost revenue) and some business and safety advocates.

[Image: freestocks.org/Flickr]

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45 Comments on “Accused Rapist with a Mile-long Rap Sheet Is the Latest Blow Against Uber...”


  • avatar
    Jagboi

    It’s a bit sensationalist, being accused is a long way from being convicted in court.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Has anyone compared criminal acts per million trips or similar data between Lyft/Uber drivers and conventional taxi drivers? That’s probably the most useful way to look at it.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      In San Francisco, seemingly half the cabbies are recovering junkies attempting to stay clean by needing to stay out of drug testing trouble….

    • 0 avatar

      Facts have nothing to do with running a market disruptor out of your turf.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        nor does it mean “being disruptive=we can do whatever the hell we want.”

        • 0 avatar
          DevilsRotary86

          While I agree that new competitors should obey the rules, some of those rules that Uber challenged were fundamentally anti-competitive and needed to be changed.

          For example, the old Dallas Taxi rules were intentionally byzantine, with the effect that you pretty much had to work for Yellow Cab or Cowboy Taxi. The new rules say that anyone who pays $280 per year per vehicle to Dallas, runs background checks, passes inspections, and has commercial insurance can run a taxi company.

          The taxi companies in Dallas have a long history of corruption, and I think in other cities as well. For example, the Federal bribery convictions involving Council Member Al Lipscomb and Yellow Cab. Or Yellow Cab and the City Manager of Dallas AC Gonzalez conspiring to slip through regulations that would have banned Uber & Lyft from Dallas without the Council noticing.

          So I don’t know about the rest of the country, but as a resident of Dallas County I loved seeing the traditional taxi companies freak out. I love that Uber has turned everything upside down here. After an initial rough patch with Uber, they seem to be playing by the new rules.

          Now I know everything I wrote was very specific to Dallas, but I think a similar story has played out in cities around the country.

          • 0 avatar

            Interesting on Dallas. In other cities where they have tried to apply the same common sense rules to Uber, Uber has freaked and pulled out of the market (Austin TX and Eugene OR for example) I wonder what’s different about Dallas that they went along.

          • 0 avatar
            DevilsRotary86

            I think it was largely because Dallas caved in and green lighted Uber’s two-tier insurance scheme. A lower insurance requirement when waiting for a pickup and a higher requirement when transporting a paying passenger. Dallas Taxi Regulation FAQ:

            http://dallascityhall.com/departments/codecompliance/Pages/Transportation-For-Hire-FQAs.aspx

            This one made the traditional cab companies scream, but Uber didn’t get everything it wanted and neither did the traditional cab companies. So good compromise.

            Also, Dallas is OK with Uber’s controversial “independent contractor” model. That is: inspections, licensing fees, and background checks in the case of Uber drivers are on the individual drivers and not necessarily Uber. From the same FAQ:

            “Do I need a background check to have a transportation-for-hire driver’s permit?
            Yes. To perform the required background check, a driver may use either the City’s background check company or a third-party background check company of the transportation-for-hire company.”

            Note, it says “a driver may use…” not “driver or employer may use…”

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    FWIW, I have a friend that in the corporate office of a major taxi cab company, and she was saying they have a long list of sex offenders that drive cabs.

    So I’m not really sure what Uber is being compared to, but I can tell you most traditional taxi drivers seem a lot shadier than Uber drivers I have met.

    • 0 avatar
      orenwolf

      This. Cabbies (at least in the two cities I travel in most, Toronto and San Francisco) are, IMHO, terrible, entitled douchebags who behave like shit to women because the oversight on them is laughable.

      At least with Uber you know exactly who took you where, and how they got you there.

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      Back in the days when Uber first entered Dallas, of course the existing companies cried foul. One of the things that they cried foul on was that UberX’s insurance scheme wasn’t up to snuff with Dallas regulations. Of course it wasn’t, but when the city did a study on the situation with taxi companies and insurance they found that all of the traditional companies were fudging their insurance too! The gist is that the traditional companies were all self insured with a bond placed in escrow. In every case that bond was insufficient for the current size of those companies.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Is this why the Uber logo changed ? .
    .
    I know many Women who use Uber , might not be so wise .
    .
    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      In general, it’s not the brightest idea for smaller, weaker women to hop into a car driven by a bigger, stronger male they don’t know beforehand….. In most of human history and geography, outside of Progressive Loopylands, that’s, kind of, one of the basics responsible parents try to teach their daughters…

      And if a woman absolutely feels she has to go for a midnight ride in Uncle Creepy’s candy van, you’d think she would at least have the sense to pack some reasonable means of self defense.

      But then again, the dumber and more useless and helpless the drones are, the more they can be counted on to happily bend over for Massa, who promises to pay their mortgage and keep them safe. So, from a social policy POV, widespread incompetence is considered quite a desirable feature.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Thanks for sticking to cars and keeping politics out of the conversation.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          My forays into politics are pretty harmless, as such things go.

          Much less so, are those of the endless number of leeches and busybodies who will undoubtedly use events like this, to drag the state, that’d be politics, into entirely voluntary arrangements between Uber and their passengers.

          They are the ones you should admonish to stick to cars, and keep politics out.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Your constant use of hyperbole suggests that you aren’t to be taken seriously. Leech this, drone that — it’s just word salad by idiots, for idiots.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I kinda see your point but such logic also includes conventional taxis.

      • 0 avatar
        Hydromatic

        “In general, it’s not the brightest idea for smaller, weaker women to hop into a car driven by a bigger, stronger male they don’t know beforehand…”

        Chaperones? Because that’s how a lot of non-western nations deal with this sort of thing, for better or worse…

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit-Iron

          Well, if they live in one of the 43 or so free states the women could tool up. If they live in a utopia like Illinois or Hawaii then they will have to rely on the kindness of strangers, or have chaperones.

    • 0 avatar
      aajax

      Because of one or two incidents out of hundreds of thousands? Are women supposed to stop using taxis now?

  • avatar
    aajax

    Anecdotal reports like this, without any context, do a disservice to the public as well as felons who have done their time. and been good citizens for years after.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Jesse Matthews says WHAT? Anyone that thinks Uber is more dangerous than a taxicab really deserves [this is something we do not expect or condone from commenters on TTAC —Mark]. The idiot taxes we all must pay are far too dear.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Isnt that a bit harsh? Wishing rape and death upon people that don’t like Uber over taxis?

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I wish there was a way to flag posts for moderation here. That’s just foul.

        besides, the one big difference between taxi companies and Uber is *liability.* Taxi companies can be held legally liable for what their drivers do. Uber, being the “disruptor” so many love to adore, neatly side-steps that by calling all of their drivers “independent contractors,” thereby skirting any liability for what happens.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      that is the most disgusting thing you’ve said here so far, and that’s saying something.

      • 0 avatar
        BobinPgh

        But he did not do as I did once and mention the name of a nonprofit organization that provides primary health care. I found out Mark doesn’t like that organization.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          ” really deserves to be raped to death. “.
          .
          Just , _wow_ .
          .
          I am shocked and appalled , I guess you don’t know anyone who’s even been assaulted much less raped .
          .
          I don’t think this comment should be deleted as it’s important to know how folks really feel behind their keyboards .
          .
          -Nate

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    Outrageous of Uber, because as we all know, taxi drivers have never raped anyone.

    I’ll be the vetting bar for Uber is still higher than that for cabbies. And I’ll say this: I’ve definitely been more creeped out by taxi drivers, or scared by their reckless driving, than Uber drivers. On the whole, Uber drivers seem safer and more professional than taxi drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      garuda

      In the same vein, since 80+% of rapes are committed by someone you know… maybe it is still safer than calling a “friend” for a ride

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      It is. My wife and I are in the midst of applying and she was turned down (for what, we don’t know yet). No driving record, no arrests, nothing. But they do run a background check, of that I’m sure. We’ll see what happens to my check.

      As for checks in general, no check is 100% effective. I am also a member of the Boy Scouts of America, and heaven knows we’ve had enough issues with people getting in that shouldn’t. No matter how many checks and balances you put into place, eventually those that want to circumvent the system will do so. One does the best one can do to protect one’s self.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    How many people are raped by autonomous vehicles?

    Just sayin’…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The issue for Uber is that they’ve claimed they’re not liable because these people are ostensibly contractors. When this was pointed out to be tenuous justification at best, they further attempted to distance themselves from liability by marketing the vetting process.

    The issue isn’t that taxi companies and cabbies are saintly, it’s that they have to carry insurance and be liable. Uber’s trying to make money without any of the risks or obligations, externalizing all of the costs their competitors have to pay onto Uber’s contractors and users because “disruption”.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      This is it. I love using uber and the way that everything is packaged. But, their stance on contract employees is contemptible, and dangerous to their employees, customers and the work force at large.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah I”m fine with Uber replacing taxis, but their methods in many cases are very sketchy and in alot of cases downright illegal. And like a spoiled child any attempt to even add light handed regulation results in them leaving and crying to mommy. So I try to avoid using it as much as possible now. Shame really the future had to come from scumbags.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    I’ll take “The Rapists” for 400 please Alex.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    From Wikipedia: “In German, über is a preposition, as well as being used as a prefix. Both uses indicate a state or action involving increased elevation or quantity in the physical sense, or superiority or excess in the abstract.”

    Never trust a company which uses the German word for superior as its name.

    Uber never accepts that it has gotten anything wrong. They are incapable of self-reflection and even a modicum of humility. Consequently, if a few customers get hurt while Uber rises to power, so what?

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