TheCab owner is shocked as driver appears in court
A 46-year-old taxicab driver accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger made his first appearance in Honolulu District Court yesterday.
Adrian Estioco Cohen, dressed only in paper coveralls, bowed his head as he stood before the court charged with first-degree sexual assault.
According to police, the victim fell asleep after catching Cohen's taxi from Waikiki back to Pearl Harbor just before midnight on Aug. 6. She allegedly awoke to find Cohen using his fingers to sexually assault her.
District Judge Gerald Kibe confirmed bail at $100,000 and ordered Cohen back tomorrow for a preliminary hearing.
TheCab owner and President Howard Higa said Cohen's service contract was terminated. The city also has terminated his taxi license, he said.
"To my knowledge, this is the first time for a crime like this to occur -- the first time in the industry, so it's rather shocking," he said.
In the last couple of months, TheCab has been plagued with problems -- with one driver murdered and another shot and injured.
Higa said there have been arguments between drivers and customers, but he could not recall anything like Cohen's alleged assault.
Cohen had been driving for TheCab as an independent contractor since April 2005.
Three months before, on Jan. 28, 2005, Cohen was found guilty of prostitution, a petty misdemeanor. He was sentenced to six months' probation and a $500 fine. He has a total of nine prior convictions. Three are felonies, including auto theft and drug charges in 2001.
Higa said the company had relied on the city to do any background checks on cabdrivers it hires. The city does background checks on taxi license applicants and screens out applicants with prior convictions within the past two years.
Taxi certificates are renewed annually, he said, so the January 2005 conviction could have slipped between the yearly checks.
"We're assuming the city is going to give us a guy who has passed all the requirements and has no priors within the past two years," Higa said. "We assume he's OK."
As for easing the public's concerns, Higa said that "this is an isolated incident" and should not reflect negatively on the company.
His drivers are loyal and dedicated to the company, which maintains high standards for its cars and personnel, he said.