A former Lyft driver was convicted Monday afternoon in Marietta of raping a passenger. On Tuesday morning, Cobb Superior Court Judge Ann Harris sentenced him to serve 35 years in prison, followed by life on probation as a registered sex offender.
“Sir, she was vulnerable and she was at your mercy,” Harris said upon sentencing, quoted in a news release from Acting District Attorney John Melvin. “You decided you were going to have sex with her, and that is rape.”
Jerome Antonio Booze, 40, of Decatur, was defended by Noah Pines and Andrew Fleischman of Ross & Pines. They plan to appeal.
“While we respect the jury’s decision, we believe it was based on improper jury instructions given to them by the court and other legal errors that were made during the trial,” Pines said. “We plan to raise these issues, along with a constitutional challenge to the rape statute that we filed prior to trial, in the Supreme Court of Georgia.”
Prosecutors said Booze picked up a severely intoxicated college student from a bar in Atlanta, took her home to her apartment complex in Vinings and raped her in the back seat of his vehicle before she exited. The woman had been celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday. Her friends ordered the Lyft for her and helped her into the car around 4 a.m.
“This predator exploited a position of trust and targeted a vulnerable, intoxicated female,” Senior Assistant District Attorney Courtney Veal said in the DA’s news release. “This verdict demonstrates that those who prey on women who do not have the capacity to consent will be held accountable.”
Veal prosecuted the case with Senior Assistant District Attorney Katie Gropper. Veal said Booze “never thought he did anything wrong.”
Booze testified in his own defense on Friday afternoon and told jurors that the woman held his arm down and climbed on him—that she essentially raped him, according to the DA’s news release.
Prosecutors said Booze also denied knowing that the woman was intoxicated, even though he had told police she slept most of the way home and vomited twice in his presence. They said he told police he got into the back seat with her “because she was attractive.”
“The safety of the Lyft community is our top priority, and the incident described is deeply concerning,” a spokesman for Lyft said Tuesday. “Immediately upon becoming aware of the situation in 2016, we deactivated the driver. We also were in touch to assist law enforcement with their investigation.”