An Uber driver accused of raping a 24-year-old passenger who had called for a late-night ride from Manayunk will stay in jail after a judge on Wednesday rejected his plea for lower bail.
Calling the charges "very serious," Montgomery County Court Judge William T. Nicholas kept bail at $1 million cash for Abdellah Elkaddi, turning aside pledges of support from a dozen of the defendant's friends and family members, including his pregnant wife.
Elkaddi, 46, of Northeast Philadelphia, was arrested hours after the woman said he attacked her early June 11. He has denied the charges, and his lawyer, James Lyons, promised a vigorous defense.
The charges come as ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft increase in popularity - though banned in Philadelphia, both have won permission to operate in other parts of the state - and face occasional questions about issues including safety. Uber is operating in the city in defiance of the ban.
Alleged rapes by such private service drivers have grabbed headlines. But Uber officials say that in addition to providing riders with the name and photo of its drivers, the company runs background checks on them, and assists police when investigations are reported.
In the Montgomery County case, Uber helped authorities identify Elkaddi and halted his access to Uber's smartphone app as soon as the company learned of the charges, spokesman Taylor Bennett said.
Prosecutors said Elkaddi's passenger had been out with coworkers on June 10 and used the phone app around 11 p.m. to request a ride to her car in Norristown.
When Elkaddi drove the woman to her destination, her car was not there. She then asked him to take her to the Norristown police station to find out if it had been towed. There, both the woman and Elkaddi got out of the car, went into the station, and were captured on video surveillance footage, court records show.
After waiting 20 minutes, the woman asked the driver to take her home. On the way, she fell asleep, the woman later told detectives. She woke up to him touching her and climbing on top of her.
"Get off of me! What are you doing?" she yelled seven or eight times as he raped her, according to court documents.
After the assault, the woman told detectives, Elkaddi got dressed and offered to drive her home. She instead directed him to a location across the street from the West Norriton police station, where she got out of the car and ran in as he drove away.
"This is the most prompt complaint that I have ever seen in my entire career," said Michelle Henry, a Bucks County prosecutor specially sworn in to handle the Montgomery County case.
The woman reported the rape to detectives, underwent testing at a hospital, and used the Uber app on her phone to provide police with Elkaddi's identity.
Elkaddi was arrested later that day. He denied having sexual contact with the woman.
While arguing to keep bail at $1 million, Henry cited "extremely compelling" DNA evidence that she said links Elkaddi to the rape. She declined to elaborate.
Elkaddi's lawyer said it was inappropriate to hint at DNA evidence at the bail hearing before the evidence was introduced in court. Lyons also said his client has no criminal record and questioned the likelihood that Elkaddi would rape a woman after appearing with her at a police station. Elkaddi wore a red jail jumpsuit, waved to his family, and listened to the court hearing with the help of an interpreter. He is from Morocco and has been a U.S. citizen for seven years.
The victim sat between her parents in the front row of the courtroom and cried as Elkaddi's attorney argued for reduced bail.