Colorado Uber Driver Convicted Of Misdemeanor Sex Crime, Not Felony, After Procedural Issue

(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
<p>In this April 3, 2014 photo, a smartphone is mounted on the glass of an Uber car.</p>
Photo: Uber app
In this April 3, 2014 photo, a smartphone is mounted on the glass of an Uber car.

On May 2, an Arapahoe County jury convicted a Colorado Uber driver of unlawful sexual contact. Authorities said he assaulted a female passenger in his car.

That conviction is a misdemeanor, as opposed to a felony charge of sexual assault. Unlawful sexual contact typically carries a sentence of six months to two years in jail. A felony conviction of sexual assault typically carries a far longer jail term.

According to court testimony, Bashir Alsayed Hassan, 64, picked up a 29-year-old woman who hailed an Uber ride home on Nov. 16, 2017. Hassan stopped the car and asked her to move to the back seat so he could pick up other passengers. The woman testified that as she was moving, Hassan fondled her, penetrated her with his fingers and ejaculated on her, according to District Attorney George Brauchler’s office.

Brauchler said that the penetration committed qualifies the incident as felony sexual assault but, because of procedural issues and lack of evidence, his office decided not to elevate the charges.

“Could we have elevated this to a felony just based off of what we had at the time, which was a he-said-she-said when it comes to the penetration portion? I think we probably could have,” Brauchler said. “But our goal is to make sure that before we bring this to a bigger level, that the strength of the evidence in the case itself warrants that.”

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office initiated the investigation in 2017 and started charges of misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact, Brauchler said. Most notably, they decided not to order a rape exam, also called a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner or SANE exam, he added.

After investigators determined the assault happened in Littleton, the case was handed over to Littleton police. Police then officially charged Hassan with the misdemeanor. DA staffers determined that, because of the lack of a rape exam immediately following the incident, there was not enough corroborating evidence to charge Hassan with a felony.

“It doesn't mean it didn't happen and it certainly doesn't mean we didn't believe her,” Brauchler said. “The issue is, when you elevate this to a different level charge, the bar in terms of the evidence that you need to provide tends to feel much higher.”

Misconduct in Colorado ride shares happens, but it doesn’t happen often, Brauchler said.

“I don't think that people should conclude that Uber is any more dangerous today than they did yesterday,” Brauchler said. “I just don't want people to take it for granted that they're climbing into the backseat of a stranger's car and to just stay as attentive as they possibly can.”

Uber said in an emailed statement that what the rider describes is “disturbing” and that Hassan no longer has access to the Uber app. It’s unclear if that means the man has been fired.

Sentencing for Hassan is set for June 28. Hassan will be required to register as a sex offender after sentencing.