Taxi customers claim drivers assaulted them

ABC 7 discovered a startling number of attacks on taxi cab passengers at the hands of their own drivers.{ }

One victim says a driver pulled her out of a cab by her ankles.

And some of the drivers facing assault charges are still picking up passengers.

"It was startling. You don't know what to do in that type of situation," says the victim, who asked that her identity be protected.

She explains the terrifying experience began as a early morning taxi ride from Dupont.

"I said, 'Can you take me to Georgetown for $5, because I'm low in cash.' He said, 'Yeah, get in'," she recalls.

At the end of the ride, she realized her phone had fallen out of her purse in the cab.

"At that point, very rude and belligerent.. and demanded that I get out of the car."

When she refused to leave without her phone, she says the driver manhandled her.

The victim says, "He opened the door. He grabbed my feet by the ankles...and...I had my hands inside to prevent him from pulling me out.. and he pulled me very forcefully onto the ground."

She is one of at least a dozen people who have recently submitted complaints to the D.C. Taxi Cab Commission for assault by a cab driver.

In records obtained from the commission, one passenger says his cabbie "pulled me by the jacket and punched me."

A woman wrote that her driver twice "reached behind the seat to grab my leg under my skirt." Another customer says "the driver struck me with his right hand....I thought he was going to gouge my eye out."

The taxi commission says seven drivers have recently been arrested for assault, but none of them has had their license revoked.

Chairman Ron Linton says that's because the commission only has the authority to fine drivers. It can't pull their license, not even for felony offenses.

"If we had that authority, we would have had all seven of those drivers brought before a commissioner on a charge of imminent danger, and based on the facts, suspended or revoked their licenses. But, right now? We can't do it," Linton says.

Emad Hermez is one of the 8,500 drivers who has gone through a background check and training before being licensed. He says in his experience, it's the driver who is typically the victim.

"I've been attacked physically and verbally by passengers who have had too much to drink," Hermez explains.

Police couldn't give any details on the status of drivers who've been arrested.

In the meantime, legislation is in the works to give the taxi commission the authority to hold hearings and revoke or suspend licenses.