Uber Driver Reports Being Sexually Assaulted By Passenger

Posted at 3:37 PM, Dec 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-18 23:44:55-05

A man was arrested and charged for sexually assaulting a rideshare driver, who picked him up.

Hendersonville police said the female Uber driver picked up three passengers around 8 p.m. on Dec. 15 to take them to River Road.  She told police the person in the front seat started touching her inappropriately.  She called police.

48-year-old James E. Thornton was arrested on Dec. 17.  He was charged with sexual battery.

“I can’t imagine what she felt like when she was trying to make some money and someone basically assaulted her,” said Jim Vaughn with the Hendersonville Police Department.

Police said the two other passengers in the car apologized for Thornton’s behavior.

The Uber website lists safety tips for drivers and riders.  Tips for drivers included encouraging riders to sit in the back seat to provide personal space, and to stay focused on driving.  If a driver feels uncomfortable or unsafe they can end the ride at any time.

Vaughn said the incident served as an important reminder of the dangers that can come with using ridesharing services.

“You are putting yourself at risk when you allow virtual strangers into your vehicle,” said Vaughn.

Vaughn said riders also need to take precautions including alerting family or friends to where they are headed, and to use their intuition.  If something feels wrong, riders should reach out to police immediately.

Police said there had not been any other reports of similar incidents during Uber rides in the city.

Thornton has since posted a $5,000.00 bond. His General Session Court date is January 24, 2018.