Court records from both a criminal case against 51-year-old Frederick Gaston and a lawsuit against him and Uber all lead down a dark road occupied by a history of violence that should never of found its way into an industry built on trust.
A 26-year old woman from Miami entrusted her wellbeing into the hands of Uber driver Gaston on the long Labour Day weekend of last year after spending time drinking with friends.
Gaston offered the 26-year-old woman a ride along with one of her friends. According to reports in the Miami New Times, the woman was heavily intoxicated and could barely stand.
Gaston helped the woman into the front seat of his vehicle and her friend into the back. The woman’s friend was dropped off first in Brickell and then they continued on with the journey to her home.
It has been reported that the woman was sick a number of times inside and outside the Uber vehicle as she faded in and out of consciousness.
The reports say that Gaston began to insert his fingers into his victims vagina while driving. He need found a place to stop the vehicle and climb on top of the woman and rape her.
The victim told the police that she feared for her life and thought if she tried to fight him off, he would harm her.
(Frederick Gaston booking photos)
Once the woman was eventually dropped home she was able to get help from a neighbour who called the police.
On arrival, the police found the woman sitting on the stairs crying hysterically. She was later taken to a Miami police station.
During her statement, the woman had suggested that she thought herself and her friend had entered a police vehicle because of the type of car it was, but a photograph she had taken whilst in the vehicle gave clues to what vehicle they were in and what the driver was wearing; old trainers and sweatpants with a distinctive green stripe.
The detective leading the case reviewed CCTV footage of where the woman and her friend was picked up. The footage showed a minivan pull up and a black man could be seen getting out and waiting around.
The detective and her team began to watch the same location to see if Gaston would return. He did. This time on October 23. He was seen driving back and forth. Lead detective Farinas, was approached by a taxi driver who alerted her to a fight that was happening between two women.
Farina ran over to break it up but a man was already pulling the women apart. Farina noticed the minivan parked close by and then noticed that the man breaking up the fight was wearing a pair of track pants with a green stripe down them. It was Gaston.
Gaston was heard offering girls a ride home. Farina pulled the girls to one side and told them to go find their own ride.
Farinas arranged a photo lineup after running the number plate of Gaston’s minivan through the police database but a positive ID was not able to be made.
In a last ditch attempt to catch Gaston, Farinas decided to distribute posters patrol officers to try and get Gaston to come forward - but not as a suspect, but as a witness.
On December 9, Farinas got a call from a police officer who had spotted Gaston. She made her way to him and was able to persuade him to go to the police station to answer a few questions.
Gaston told her that he remembered picking the woman up, stating she was “completely out of it” and was throwing up a lot in the vehicle. He said he dropped her off at her apartment.
Farinas then told him that the woman had said she had been raped, Gaston’s reply was “we had sex, and it was good sex”, Farinas said that he then said that those were the “perks” of being an Uber driver. He said “you get a lot of pussy.”
During the interview Gaston eventually admitted to using his fingers and penis to penetrate the woman and was arrested. He’s been in jail ever since, charged with sexual battery on a physically incapacitated victim.
On June 26, the victim sued Uber and Gaston on the grounds of negligent hiring of Gaston due to the lax security screenings that have also been highlighted in previous sexual assault cases against drivers of the company.
If Uber’s screening process had been more stringent, they may of picked up on records that show Gaston had a restraining order filed against him in 1996 in Miami for repeat violence against a woman.
Judd Rosen, the victim’s attorney said that “Uber markets itself as a safe ride home”, but with the company constantly lobbying to keep background checks out of the hands of the government, it is effectively “putting chum in the water for sexual predators.”
An Uber spokesperson has defended the company’s background check policy and said they have even applied a “911” button to the app in case of emergency.
A case that highlights how a lack of stringent checks can lead to horrific consequences is the trial of Talal Chammout, who was allowed to drive for Uber without a background check, which was reported by CNN. Within three months of working for the ride-sharing app, he followed a passenger into her home and sexually assaulted her.
Chammout had previously been convicted of assault and was also accused of using a crowbar to attack his wife. A simple Google search would of found this. Chammout is now serving a 25 year jail sentence.
Gaston’s criminal case is set to head to trial on October 26.