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Former Uber driver charged with assaulting rider in his car
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A man who drove for the ridesharing service Uber in San Francisco has been charged with assaulting a customer, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Daveea Whitmire of San Francisco was charged Tuesday with misdemeanor battery of a transit passenger, District Attorney George Gascon said. The 28-year-old Whitmire is accused of verbally and physically assaulting a passenger he picked up in the city’s Castro District on Nov. 24.

After arguing with the rider, Whitmire became angry when the rider took pictures of his car with a smartphone. Whitmire slapped the phone out of the rider’s hands and elbowed him in the chest, district attorney spokesman Alex Bastian said.

Whitmire has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge and is out on $10,000 bail.

Gascon said he plans to use Whitmire’s case to argue that more state regulation is needed for the fast-growing and popular rideshare industry. The district attorney said he has been in discussion with the California Public Utilities Commission.

“We want to make sure that there are proper background investigations for those who are working for these companies,” Gascon said. “We need to make sure there is sufficient insurance to protect consumers.”

Whitmire’s attorney, San Francisco deputy public defender Kimberly Lutes-Koths, said Wednesday that her client is being singled out.

“Prosecutors appear to be using Mr. Whitmire as a pawn in their war against rideshare services,” Lutes-Koths said. “Police who investigated the incident found no evidence of wrongdoing on Mr. Whitmire’s part and declined to cite him.”

Whitmire, who was previously convicted and is on probation for battery and a narcotics offense, passed a Uber background check, company officials said.

“Uber works with Hirease to conduct background checks, which all drivers must undergo and clear to partner with Uber,” the company said in a statement. “This driver had a clean background check from Hirease.”

Whitmire was fired last year.