DRIVER

Police: Man Posed as Ride-Share Driver, Sexually Assaulted Woman at American University

The woman told police she had thought the man was an Uber driver

A man posing as a ride-share driver picked up a woman in his car and sexually assaulted her on American University's campus early Sunday, police said. 

Police arrested and charged El Houcine Jourhdaly, 36, of Springfield, Virginia, on sexual abuse and kidnapping charges Monday.

The 21-year-old victim and a male companion told police they saw an Uber sticker on a car. About 3:20 a.m. Sunday, the victim flagged down the driver near Dupont Circle, police said. 

The attacker said he would drive the victim and her companion somewhere, and both got in the car, police said.

During the drive, Jourhdaly pulled over and demanded the woman get in the front seat, the companion later told police. She complied, he said.

When the car arrived at the destination, the driver yelled at the companion to leave the car, he told police. Police say he went to help the woman out, but the driver sped away with her inside. The companion ran after the car, but it sped off. 

The companion called the woman's phone, he told police. She answered once and said she didn't know where she was going.

Then, Jourhdaly allegedly got on the phone and said they were going to a McDonald's. Police did not say when the phone calls occurred.

On the American University campus, the driver forced the woman out of the car and sexually assaulted her, she told police.

Police say video shows Jourhdaly's car had an Uber sticker before the assault. The sticker was gone when police went to interview him at his home in Virginia, police said.

Uber said Jourhdaly was a driver for the service beginning in January 2014, but said he was banned from the app in 2015. The company declined to say why he was removed.

Lyft said Jourhdaly applied to be a driver but was not approved.

Jourhdaly initially told police he did not work for Uber, then said in a second interview that he did work for Uber, police said.

The attack has been classified as first-degree sexual abuse, which in D.C. refers to engaging in any sexual act by forcing, threatening or drugging a victim, or rendering a victim unconscious. The maximum penalty is life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The woman initially reported the crime to campus police. It was not immediately clear if she is a student.

The attack occurred outside American University's Asbury Hall, which houses classrooms and administrative offices.

Uber initially told News4 that Jourhdaly did not appear to be an active driver. 

Jourhdaly is expected to appear in court Monday.

American University issued a crime alert to students and staff. Information on the alert was posted on the AU Public Safety Twitter account about 8:45 p.m. They reminded students to only request rides through official apps.

Police ask anyone who has information or had a previous encounter with Jourhdaly to call police at 202-727-9099.

Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story.

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