Grand jury indicts Uber driver accused of sexually assaulting underage passenger

Posted at 6:41 PM, Apr 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-23 18:41:08-04

HONOLULU (Brenton Awa) — An Oahu grand jury has indicted an Uber driver accused of sexually assaulting his teenage passenger. Luke Wadahara was arrested on three counts of first degree sex assault. His Facebook page is littered with negative comments, some coming from people who know him, others who rode with him as a ride-share passenger. KITV spoke exclusively with one of those passengers.

“All of the signs were there, all of the signs were there,” said a former passenger of Luke Wadahara.

Afraid for her own safety, but compelled to share her story with the public, a woman described her ride with Luke Wadahara, the Uber driver accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. The woman provided KITV with a receipt confirming her driver was Wadahara. It was a ride she remembers clearly.

“From the moment I got in the car he wanted to be my next best friend. It was really creepy,” said the former passenger.

Investigators say what happened this past weekend went well beyond creepy. According to court documents Wadahara was giving a teenager a ride in his Dodge Charger, license plates listed as “SEXI.” The documents say Wadahara detoured from his Uber route, pulled over in the Makiki area, then sexually assaulted her. The teenager eventually got away. Wadahara was arrested at his apartment early Sunday morning.

Uber released this statement.

“We are working with law enforcement, so can’t comment on the specifics of the case. However, we can confirm that we followed up and reached out to both the driver and rider soon after the rider contacted us. Safety is a priority at Uber and we are always striving to find new ways to make our platform safer. Whenever incidents happen, we study them carefully to see how we can improve our policies and practices to minimize the risk of similar incidents in the future.”

The rider we spoke to says she is sadden but not surprised to hear this happened. She says Wadahara kept coming on to her and she kept having to politely push him away. She complained to Lyft, the company Wadahara worked for at the time. Now she’s wondering how many people might have similar stories.

“The fact that a driver like this is continuing to work for these companies even with a complaint that I filed it should have been taken seriously and it wasn’t and unfortunately for this poor 16-year-old girl she was sexually assaulted and it could have been prevented. I hope that other women who are in an uncomfortable situation whether they touch you or not make it a point to report it because it might help someone later,” said the former passenger.

Just talk of this incident has this student from HPU saying she’ll never ride with Uber or Lyft again.

“If it happens once then it’s probably happening. Maybe some people are talking about it and they won’t share the story because it’s too ashamed to even talk about it so you just never know,” said Nicole Mendoza, a student at HPU.

Meanwhile, a measure at the City Council is aimed at adding restrictions to ride sharing drivers. Council-member Brandon Elefante says his bill would require drivers to go through the city for additional background checks and screening.

“We have to ensure that our transportation network company drivers those that are carrying these passengers go through the necessary process to ensure they are checked that they follow these requirements in order to get a transportation network company certificate and ensure the safety out there on our roads,” said Honolulu City Council-member Brandon Elefante.

The woman who kept her identity concealed also told us that Wadahara bragged to her about how many women he’s met and were interested in him through his time as a ride share driver. Wadahara was served a bench warrant Thursday. His bail was set at $150,000.