A former Uber driver accused of raping a 16-year-old girl sobbed so uncontrollably in the Massachusetts Malden District Court on Thursday that he collapsed on the floor.
People reports that Darnell Booth, 34, of Dorchester, is accused of sexually assaulting a teen girl from Everett on July 5, after she missed her school bus and got a ride via Uber, a taxi service. Court documents indicate that she texted her summer school bus driver and said she didn’t need a ride. She instead chose to ride with Booth, who had been working for Uber since February.
Once the teen got in Booth’s car, he reportedly drove her to a “largely abandoned parking lot,” according to Assistant District Attorney Carrie A. Spiros. That’s when allegedly ordered her to take off her pants. He slapped her in the face at least two times before pinning her down and removing her pants himself.
Police records indicate that Booth then raped the teen in the back of his car before taking her school. The T-shirt she wore was sent to forensics for analyzation. Prosecutors stated that there’s confirmed DNA evidence linking Booth to the rape. While reading the details of the crime in court, Spiros said the following.
“He leaned over from the driver’s seat and slapped her in the face on two occasions.”
Booth’s defense attorney, however, paints a completely different story. According to his public defender, Jo Stringer, the teen accepted Booth’s Snapchat request on July 3, just days after her father ordered the Uber service to pick her up from Melrose on June 30, when she met Booth for the first time. According to Stringer, the meeting was a coincidence.
“It’s a fascinating coincidence that she texts her bus driver to say she doesn’t need a ride, and then lo and behold Mr. Booth says to her, ‘Do you need a ride?'”
Regardless, Booth was arrested and held without bond. While the charges were being read to him, Booth’s eyes turned red, and he began shaking his head while trying to fight back tears. At one point he looked into the court camera, as in disbelief, before he collapsed on the floor.
A few of Booth’s family members who attended the arraignment cried themselves and looked on in shock when they saw him fall to the floor. Judge William Fitzpatrick ordered a brief recess to allow him time to compose himself.
Booth has a lengthy criminal record, yet Uber asserts that all drivers must go through an extensive criminal background check before they’re hired. Uber spokeswoman Susan Hendricks stated that background checks are re-conducted twice a year after hire, and anyone with a felony conviction is unable to work for the company. Anyone with major driving violations within the past seven years also cannot work for the company.
Yet, Suffolk Superior Court records indicate that Booth served prison time for a 2008 drug conviction. The Boston Globe reports that he also had a number of motor-vehicle charges, although the exact details of the charges are not yet released on Thursday. Spiros said that Booth’s past criminal history showed an extensive record “with multiple convictions for violent offenses.”
In 2012, he was arrested again after assaulting a corrections officer. He spent two years in jail for the assault. He also spent time in jail for dealing drugs while in a school zone on a number of occasions.
Hendricks said that Uber is cooperating with law enforcement and that Booth, who no longer works for the company, was “permanently banned from using the app.”
The former Uber driver faces one felony count of rape, and is due back in court on Monday for a dangerousness hearing. He pleaded not guilty.
[Photo by Eric Risberg/AP]