Paterson man charged with sexually assaulting passenger was driving for Uber, company confirms

OCTOBER 19, 2016, 1:15 PM LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2016, 4:54 PM

BY STEVE JANOSKI

THE RECORD

A judge denied a bail reduction Wednesday for an Uber driver charged with sexually assaulting a Wyckoff woman in the driveway of her parents’ home.

Al-quon Hopkins, of Paterson, appeared before Central Judicial Processing Court Judge John A. Conte, Jr. via video conference from the Bergen County Jail where he is being held on $250,000 bail.

Authorities allege that Hopkins, 31, sexually assaulted a 27-year-old woman who had used the online service for a ride home. The woman called the Wyckoff police around 2 a.m. Monday to report the assault, which authorities said took place in Hopkins’ car.

Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, Hopkins sat on a white plastic chair with his chin up and his eyes looking straight ahead during the roughly 5 minute long proceeding.

His attorney, Kenyatta Stewart, entered a not guilty plea on Hopkins’ behalf and asked the judge to reduce his bail to $100,000 because he has no criminal history and is a “hard working young man.”

Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Fitzpatrick told Conte that the current $250,000 bail “isn’t even the ceiling” for the charge.

Fitzpatrick said Hopkins sexually assaulted an “intoxicated person” and that authorities have “an admission.”

“The bail was set by the state and I don’t see any reason for this court to reduce it,” Conte said, adding that Hopkins could apply to Superior Court to have it lowered.

Outside the courtroom Stewart said he plans to file a bail reduction application Thursday.

As for the admission, he said, “they might have an admission of them having sex. I don’t think they have an admission of him raping her.”

Stewart said that Hopkins has never even had a speeding ticket.

“Not to make light of any rape victim,” the defense attorney said, “but when we get to the bottom of this I think we’re going to find two adults made the decision to have sex.”

Judge Conte said, should Hopkins make bail, he is barred from working as a livery driver.

Uber has also banned him, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday

The Uber spokeswoman called Hopkins’ alleged behavior “horrific,” and said it was a “clear violation” of the company’s community guidelines prohibiting inappropriate or sexual conduct.

“Uber is aware of the incident, and we are working to assist the local police in their investigation,” she said, adding that Hopkins will not be allowed to access the Uber app to work as a livery driver in the future.

The incident comes as Uber continues to aggressively recruit new drivers, and it follows a series of similar alleged assaults by Uber drivers that have been reported across the country. Drivers in Boston, Chicago, San Antonio, Palo Alto, and San Diego County have been arrested in recent months for sexual assault, and another Uber driver was arrested in Toronto for the same crime.

In response, a new California law will require ridesharing companies to conduct local and national background checks for all drivers starting in 2017. Violators could be fined up to $5,000 per offense.

The Wyckoff police notified the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, and the agencies arrested Hopkins later on Monday near his home. He was charged with one count of first-degree aggravated sexual assault and was taken to the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack.

His $250,000 bail does not include the option of paying 10 percent to be released. Hopkins is to have no contact with the woman if he does post bail, and must surrender his passport.

He is due back in court on Nov. 10.

http://www.northjersey.com/news/paterson-man-charged-with-sexually-assaulting-passenger-was-driving-for-uber-company-confirms-1.1679539