A former Lyft driver convicted of raping an intoxicated customer in Cobb County two years ago was sentenced Tuesday to 35 years in prison, the district attorney said.
Jerome Antonio Booze, 39, of Decatur, was found guilty of raping a Smyrna woman he was giving a ride home in December 2016.
During the sentencing, Judge Ann Harris said the evidence was clear that the victim was incapable of consenting to sex.
“Sir, she was vulnerable and she was at your mercy,” Harris said. “You decided you were going to have sex with her, and that is rape.”
The attack happened in the backseat of Booze’s car at the woman’s apartment complex in Vinings, Cobb County District Attorney spokeswoman Kim Isaza said.
The woman was a “severely intoxicated college student” who had been celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday at the Anchor Bar in northeast Atlanta, officials said.
The woman’s friends called a Lyft for her and helped her into it about 4 a.m. because she was “obviously intoxicated and they wanted to continue celebrating,” Isaza said.
Booze was supposed to take her home. Instead, he drove her to a parking lot and sexually assaulted her, AJC.com previously reported.
“The woman woke up the next morning and began having flashbacks of someone having sex with her, but she had no memory of the Lyft ride or getting home,” Isaza said. “She immediately told her parents she had been raped and went to Grady Hospital to be examined.”
When he was interviewed by Cobb police, Booze’s story changed from first denying any sexual relations with a passenger to admitting they had sex, but insisting she initiated it and he didn’t know she was intoxicated, officials said.
However, Booze also said the woman slept during most of the ride and vomited twice, Isaza said. He admitted to law enforcement that he got into the backseat with the woman “because she was attractive,” authorities said.
Prosecutor Courtney Veal read a statement from the victim that detailed part of the attack during Booze’s sentencing, according to Channel 2 Action News.
“He pretended to be concerned about my welfare but ... instead preyed on me,” she said. “I thank God I was blacked out.”
A Lyft spokesman sent Channel 2 a statement following Booze’s arrest that said the company was devastated. Lyft banned Booze from its app and assisted police in their investigation.
After his time in prison, Booze will serve life on probation as a registered sex offender.
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