SAN MATEO (KPIX 5) — A San Mateo County judge has ordered the Lyft driver charged with kidnapping and raping a female passenger to be held in jail at $500,000 bail.
Tonye Kolokolo, 46, was arraigned Monday on charges of kidnapping with intent to commit a crime, rape by use of drugs, and rape of an intoxicated person. San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe says the victim, her boyfriend and some other friends were celebrating Friday night at The Swingin’ Door in San Mateo.
The victim’s boyfriend left at 11 p.m. to rest for work the next day. At midnight, police say the victim and her friends ordered a Lyft ride home. Investigator say Kolokolo dropped off the friends first, which left him alone with the victim, who had passed out in the backseat.
“He had taken her to Tracy, where he lives. And he had sexually assaulted her. She was unconscious of the act. She woke up and has no memory,” said Wagstaffe.
The victim’s boyfriend woke the next morning at about 7 a.m., discovered her missing and called San Bruno Police, who began investigating the case.
Shortly after, Kolokolo dropped the victim off at her home, with an alibi ready for detectives.
“In summary, he said it was consensual,” said Wagstaffe, who doubted the explanation. “The one thing we know [is] she was intoxicated, her friend said she was intoxicated.”
In the wake of the 2015 Brock Turner rape case, AB 2888 was signed into law, stipulating that convictions of rape of an unconscious person now carry mandatory prison sentences.
If convicted of all charges, Kolokolo could spend the rest of his life in prison.
This weekend’s incident now marks the fourth sexual assault case involving a rideshare driver in San Mateo in the past 18 months.
“All of our victims were women. All of whom had been out partying and doing the thing we ask people to do. If you’re going to go out and party and drink, don’t drive drunk. Take a rideshare. And they did it. This victim did it here and she’s a victim. It’s of concern for us,” said Wagstaffe.
Kolokolo’s arrest is renewing calls for a feature that allows riders to request a female driver.
Regarding development of that feature, Lyft spokesperson Lauren Alexander said in an email, “We do not have anything to share on a specific feature at this time, but we are always looking for ways to make Lyft an even safer platform for our community.”
Sunday, Lyft released an extended statement that said in part:
“Safety is fundamental to Lyft. What is being described is terrifying and the driver’s access to Lyft has been permanently removed. We responded immediately and have reached out to the rider since the incident. We are working with the authorities and will continue to help in every way we can.”
The district attorney urged the rideshare companies to consider the idea.
“We just know it’s not a matter of concern if there’s a woman driver. So if the companies can adopt an approach like that, I think that would be a major progress in moving away from these horrific crimes,” said Wagstaffe.
At Mineta San Jose International Airport, Carrie Ishizaki says she avoids riding Uber or Lyft alone at night, even before hearing news of Kolokolo’s arrest.
“That’s the kind of stuff that makes me nervous. So I would love to have a female driver if I had the choice,” said Ishizaki.
San Jose State incoming freshman Jada Mazury changed her mind abruptly after hearing the details of this weekend’s assault.
“Knowing that changes my perspective quite a bit. Like, I would say, I’m always going to go with friends now, I won’t take it by myself. Especially late at night,” said Mazury.
When riding alone, San Jose State student Aarushi Dhanger checks to see if the child protection locks are engaged.
“If you absolutely need to use an Uber or Lyft, then I don’t think you should not use the service anymore. But just be careful,” said Dhanger.
Wagstaffe urged female riders not to ride alone if possible, to pay attention to the route the driver takes, and passengers shouldn’t hesitate to call 911 if they feel unsafe.