Lyft driver charged with inappropriately touching Utah woman

SALT LAKE CITY — A Lyft driver accused of inappropriately touching a female passenger was formally charged Thursday.

Gebrehiwot G. Gebriye, 27, of Salt Lake City, was charged in 3rd District Court with forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony.

On Feb, 17, a woman was picked up from a bar in Salt Lake City by her Lyft driver, Gebriye, and got into the front seat, according to charging documents.

While they were driving, Gebriye “put his hand on (the woman’s) neck and pulled her close to him,” the charges state. “Gebriye told (the woman) he wanted to have sex with her.”

After the woman told him no, Gebriye then inappropriately touched the woman, the charges state.

Police had been searching for Gebriye ever since and arrested him on Tuesday. Salt Lake police detective Michael Ruff said Gebriye may have left the country and was arrested after arriving at Salt Lake City International Airport on Tuesday, he said.

The arrest marks the latest in a series of alleged sexual assaults by Lyft drivers in Utah and around the nation.

In September, a Utah woman joined 13 others from seven states to file a lawsuit against the ride-hailing company claiming they were sexually assaulted by their drivers.

The lawsuit contended that Lyft does not conduct proper background checks on drivers and has failed to take the steps necessary to protect the safety of passengers. The law firm of Estey & Bomberger, which represents the plaintiffs, stated that between 2014 and 2016, Lyft received nearly 100 sexual assault complaints against drivers in California alone.

In November, a Lyft driver was charged in 2nd District Court with forcible sexual abuse for inappropriately touching a woman he picked up from a Salt Lake City bar and drove to Centerville, according to charging documents.

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