Fired Dallas Prosecutor Apologizes for Rant on Uber Driver

November 14, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – A tearful former Dallas County prosecutor apologized Tuesday for an embarrassing audio recording of her insulting, swearing at and flaunting her powers at an Uber driver that resulted in her firing, but denied insulting his job or striking him.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson fired Jody Warner, 32, on Monday, after Uber driver Shaun Platt, 26, came forward with the recording from Nov. 10. He accuses Warner of berating him with expletives, slapping him on the shoulder and accusing him of kidnapping her after he ended the ride, called police and asked her repeatedly to exit his car.

“I want to apologize for my language, to the district attorney’s office, for embarrassing the office that I love very much and respect very much,” Warner told reporters at a press conference outside of the Frank Crowley Courts Building. “I embarrassed my family, I embarrassed myself. That is not who I am.”

Johnson said Warner’s behavior “is contrary to this office’s core principle of integrity, and it will not be tolerated.” Warner worked in the office for six years and prosecuted cases in the crimes against children unit.

Warner told reporters she did not publicly respond earlier due to the district attorney office’s media policy. She said she did not wish to make any accusations against “that driver,” saying she did not know what was in his heart.

“I can tell you not everything he said was true,” Warner said. “I never touched him, whether it is because of my experience as a prosecutor made me hyper vigilant or if I was justifiably uncomfortable, I can’t tell you that. I can just tell you what was in my heart.”

In Platt’s audio recording, a woman is heard calling him “a legitimate retard” and repeatedly telling him she is an assistant district attorney. She is heard accusing Platt of committing a “third-to-first degree felony” by asking her to get out of his car and not taking her to her destination.

Platt said Warner appeared drunk when he picked her up and that the problems began when she told him to drive in a different direction than his GPS program instructed him. He said she refused to respond to follow-up questions on where to drive, became “increasingly angry” and hurled insults.

The woman is heard warning Platt he was “going to regret this so much,” calling him a “[expletive] idiot in a stupid [expletive] hat” and telling him to “shut the [expletive] up.”

Warner acknowledged she had been drinking, which is why she took the Uber ride. She says she “finally snapped” when Platt was close to her home and turned down a different street than what his GPS program instructed.

“I never belittled him for being an Uber driver,” Warner said while wiping away tears. “I’m not someone who thinks I am above anyone. I went to law school to be a prosecutor, I love this job.

“I’m very sorry for the language that I used. I’m very sorry to the community of Dallas County, I have tried very hard to serve you in a way that would make everyone proud.”

Warner was flanked by attorneys Peter Schulte, George Milner and Elizabeth Frizell, a former state district judge who resigned this year to run for Johnson’s office. In supporting Warner, the trio questioned whether Johnson acted too hastily in firing her.

“If people are going to be fired from working for the state of Texas in this office, you have got to let us know what the ground rules are,” Schulte said.

Frizell backed up Warner’s claim that her concern was heightened, saying she is supporting her because she is an “excellent prosecutor.”

From Courthouse News.

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Dallas DA Fires Prosecutor After Incident With Uber Driver

November 14, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – A Texas district attorney fired a prosecutor late Monday after a lost Uber driver recorded her allegedly insulting him, threatening his job and flaunting her powers during a ride last week.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said she fired Jody Warner, 32, after Uber driver Shaun Platt, 26, came forward. He accuses Warner of berating him with insults, slapping him on the shoulder and accusing him of kidnapping her after he ended the ride and called police, The Dallas Morning News reported, with a link to the driver’s audio recording.

“After careful consideration and a thorough investigation, I have decided to terminate Ms. Warner,” Johnson said in a statement. “Although criminal charges have not been filed, her behavior is contrary to this office’s core principle of integrity, and it will not be tolerated. As public servants, we represent the people of Dallas County and are examples of justice, professionalism, and ethical behavior both inside and outside of the courtroom. I will not waiver on my expectation of the highest integrity for myself or my staff.”

Warner worked for the district attorney’s office for six years and prosecuted cases in the crimes against children unit. Johnson urged the public to “look beyond this incident” and understand that prosecutors work hard to seek justice on citizens’ behalf.

In the audio recording made by Platt, a woman is heard telling Platt he is an idiot.

“You are a legitimate retard,” the woman says. “What a joke.”

The woman seemed to be upset that Platt ended the ride before reaching her destination and that he called police. Platt is heard calmly asking her several times to leave his car.

“So you’re kidnapping me,” the woman said.

“I’m not kidnapping you,” Platt responded.

“So under the law, it’s recklessly keeping me from where I was going and you have done that,” the woman said. “You’re kidnapping me. You’re committing a third-to-first degree felony.”

Platt says Warner appeared drunk when he picked her up and that she became more upset as he tried to initiate small talk. He said the problems began when she told him to drive in a different direction than his GPS program instructed him. He says she refused to respond to follow-up questions on where to drive, became “increasingly angry” and hurled insults.

“I said, ‘Nope, that’s it,’ and I pulled over on the side of the road,” Platt said. “I wanted the cops to show up so they could do something about it. But I didn’t call the cops. I gave her a chance and she kept saying she was a DA and I didn’t want to get her in trouble.”

The woman is heard warning Platt he was “going to regret this so much,” calling him a “[expletive] idiot in a stupid [expletive] hat” and telling him to “shut the [expletive] up.”

Warner denied striking Platt in a statement to Good Morning America.

“I cringe whenever I hear or think about the things that I said that night,” she said. “It was unacceptable, and no one deserves to be called names. That being said, the audio doesn’t tell you that I was in a situation that made me feel very uncomfortable and I became defensive and eventually angry. I never assaulted my driver or touched him in any way. All I wanted to do was get home safely that night.”

From Courthouse News.

Alleged Dallas Rape Victim Blames Uber

August 12, 2015
By David Lee
ALLAS (CN) – Uber let “a tiger loose in a shopping mall” when it allowed a felon to drive and then rape a Dallas customer, the woman claims in court.
Jane Doe sued Uber, Triple Class Limousines and driver Talal Ali Chammout on Tuesday in Dallas County Court.
Chammout was arrested on July 25 and charged with sexual assault. He was jailed under $100,000 bond and when his attorney asked for a reduction, the judge raised it to $250,000, citing Chammout’s criminal record.
Doe’s lawsuit comes four days after Uber Dallas general manager Leandre Johns apologized to the city and to her in a letter. Johns acknowledged that Uber had made a mistake. He said Chammout’s Uber account “was marked as ‘Will Not Be Driving,'” after he applied in January 2014 to be an “UberBLACK partner” to “generate business for his family’s limo company.” But in April this year, Uber “mistakenly granted Mr. Chammout access to Uber as a driver.”
“It appears that the license Mr. Chammout provided when he initially applied to use UberBLACK as a partner was fake,” Johns’ Aug. 7 letter states. “This means he never underwent either a City of Dallas or Uber background check.”
Doe’s lawsuit says this is not the first time an Uber driver has been accused or raping or sexually assaulting a customer. She says similar allegations have been filed in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New Delhi, India.
Doe’s attorney Quentin Brodgon, with Crane Lewis & Brogdon in Dallas, said Tuesday that what his client suffered “is every woman’s worst nightmare and it’s the worst nightmare of every man with a wife or a daughter.”
He blasted Uber in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, saying, “an 8-year-old with access to the Internet and Google could have determined it was a bad idea for this driver to be driving women to their homes” late at night.
The lawsuit states: “What Uber should have known, and could have known through even the most casual perusal of the internet using Google, was that defendant Chammout had been convicted of felony assault in 1995 and convicted of the federal felony of possession of firearms in 2007.
“In fact, the federal government indicted Chammout in 2006 for being a felon in possession of firearms and conspiracy to possess stolen government property, including pistols and rocket launchers. As part of a plea agreement in 2007, the government dropped the conspiracy charge, and Chammout then served six and a half years in federal prison. He was not released until 2012, just three years before the events made the basis of this suit.
“News reports readily available to Uber on the Internet also should have made Uber aware that the federal judge presiding over the possession of firearms case cited the following other alleged acts of violence in sentencing Chammout to six and half years in prison: 1) allegations that Chammout had shot a juvenile in the leg, 2) allegations that Chammout had struck a juvenile in the face, 3) allegations that Chammout had hit his wife in the head with a crowbar and 4) allegations that Chammout had hired a hitman to kill his wife. Furthermore, Chammout’s criminal records indicated that he had been arrested for prostitution in Dallas in 2014.”
Chammout picked her up on McKinney Avenue at 8 p.m. on July 25, took her home, followed her inside, struck her on the back of the head and raped her, Doe says in the complaint.
After citing the eight other cities in which Uber drivers have been accused of raping a customer, the complaint states: “Each time, Uber apologizes. Each time, Uber promises to take all necessary corrective measures to prevent future similar incidents. And, each time, Uber denies all legal responsibility for the incident. Furthermore, in the face of this parade of horribles, Uber persists in pursuing an agenda of actively opposing any and all regulatory and legislative efforts to mandate that it strengthen the background checks performed on Uber’s drivers. This case is about holding Uber legally accountable for the foreseeable criminal acts of one of its drivers, and forcing Uber to institute basic, common-sense corrective measures to ensure that all of the drivers that it places in cars with its passengers many of whom are young women, truly pose no safety threat to those passengers.”
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Doe seeks punitive damages for sexual assault, negligence, disfigurement, pain and suffering, lost earning capacity and mental anguish.
In his summary at the top of the lawsuit, Brogdon describes Uber as “a $50 billion dollar company that rode into Dallas, Texas and other cities around the world, making big promises of convenience and safety. … Uber certainly honored its promise of convenience. But Uber consistently has failed to honor its promise of safety – all for the sake of padding its bottom line.”

From Courthouse News.

Sex Charge, Lawsuit Bedevil Uber in Dallas

August 11, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – An Uber driver is accused of rape, and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is endangering the public by letting Uber and Lyft operate there, a cab drivers association claims in court.
The Association of Taxicab Operators USA sued the airport board in Dallas County Court on Friday. It seeks a restraining order and injunction against the airport’s new policy allowing any vehicle allowed to operate by the cities of Dallas or Fort Worth to pick up passengers at the airport.
Until this month, the airport allowed taxicab service only with airport-issued permits that were “limited in distribution.” The cabbies say the new policy will cause a “feeding frenzy” and ruin their members’ business.
“The number of taxicab drivers that will be fighting each other for customers without the maintenance of the permitting status quo is unknown, but estimates are that the number of drivers seeking to obtain airport customers could double or triple,” the complaint states.
Unlike Uber and Lyft, the cabbies say, they must meet safety requirements to get an airport permit, including car inspections and background checks. The association says that 500 to 700 of its 1,400 members with airport permits “derive their business from patiently working their way through the queue to obtain fare-paying passengers.”
The association says it is “extremely concerned that adequate safeguards are not in place to protect the public, particularly after an Uber driver that was operating under false pretenses was arrested on July 31, 2015 for sexual assault of a passenger in Dallas, after having been inadequately screened by Uber.”
Uber driver Talal Chammout was arrested on July 25 and charged with sexually assaulting a Dallas woman after driving her home. He was jailed under $100,000 and when his attorney asked for a reduction, the judge raised it to $250,000.
Dallas County Judge Gracie Lewis cited the seriousness of the sexual assault charge and Chammout’s previous convictions for assault and federal weapons violations, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Chammout, 56, a native of Lebanon, was convicted in 1995 of assault with force likely to cause great bodily harm. He was accused in 2006 of buying military equipment to send outside the United States, the newspaper reported. A charge of being a felon in possession of weapons was added to those charges and he was sentenced to 6½ years in prison and released in 2012. He
Uber Dallas general manager Leandre Johns apologized to the city and to the victim in an Aug. 7 letter . He acknowledged that Uber had made a mistake. Johns claimed that Chammout’s Uber account “was marked as ‘Will Not Be Driving,'” after he applied in January 2014 to be an “UberBLACK partner” to “generate business for his family’s limo company.”
But in April this year, Uber “mistakenly granted Mr. Chammout access to Uber as a driver.”
“It appears that the license Mr. Chammout provided when he initially applied to use UberBLACK as a partner was fake,” Johns’ 1-page letter states. “This means he never underwent either a City of Dallas or Uber background check.”
John said Uber has reviewed its records to confirm that every driver or limousine company owner in the city has had a background check.
“In this instance, however, our policies and procedures were not followed as they should have been, for which we are truly sorry,” Johns wrote. “We are determined to learn from the mistakes that were made so we can do better in the future. Our thoughts are with the victim and her family.”
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
The taxi association seeks an injunction, temporary restraining order and costs of suit. It is represented by D. Shawn Stevens in Dallas.
Two customers sued Uber last week in Virginia, claiming a driver beat up a woman and held another customer hostage while he did it.
Taxi driver associations around the world have battled Uber since the Internet ride-hailing service became a billion-dollar business. Many cities in Europe, and some in the United States have tried to bar or limit Uber from town, citing safety.

From Courthouse News.