A gay New York man has found himself becoming a viral story for all of the wrong reasons, according to reports from Instinct Magazine.
Shawn Pepas Lettman, a driver for Lyft, has released a YouTube video of himself being harassed by the three passengers that he had picked up from a bar, who were upset that he allegedly refused to allow them to pay their music. While the opening stages of their argument were not recorded, by the time the camera is turned on the Lyft passengers had become belligerent. Lettman began to record the interaction because one of the passengers, Robert Ortiz, had called the police on the driver.
Over the course of the 16-minute video, Ortiz calls the police, Lyft’s corporate office, and his friends to complain about Lettman.
“I came out of a gay club and your driver is racist against gay people,” Ortiz said during one of the calls Lettman recorded. “I called the police to protect myself because I know my legal rights as an American citizen that voted for Trump.”
Ortiz also threatened to make Lettman’s night “hell,” while telling a friend in a video call, “Yo, Boo, tell me why I’m in a Lyft and the n**** f****** pulled over. The n***** recording me without my consent, because I asked for music,” he said.
Warning: Video contains strong language that may be offensive to some viewers.
For those who questioned Lettman’s filming of Ortiz, New York is a one-party consent state, which means that anyone can record a person at any time, including without consent unless the subject has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
According to the GoFundMe page set up by Lettman, he was forced to call the police himself, as he became concerned for his safety.
“Luckily there was no physical confrontation but the company I drive with felt it necessary to cancel my account pending investigation,” wrote Lettman. “Unfortunately expenses weren’t suspended and I am left to dig myself out of an awfully stressful predicament. As a father of 2 my single means of providing for my wife and children is driving a rideshare, accommodating people from all walks of life, All of which I treat with the utmost respect, after all I must provide for my family.”
Lettman also voiced concern that he could be the victim of a lawsuit due to his choice to record the encounter and wanted to pre-emptively raise some cash in case he has to hire a lawyer. As of the time of publishing, Lettman had raised $25,160, well beyond his $20,000 goal.
Meanwhile, Ortiz has lost his job at CityMD and due to the fact that he said his phone number during the video, received a massive amount of angry voicemails, forcing Ortiz to change his number.