Berkeley cab driver arrested for fondling passengers


The suspect is out on bail. Berkeley police are taking this very seriously. They say the cabbie took advantage of women who were just trying to get home.

Ali al Obadi is accused of picking up female passengers in his taxi, groping them, forcing them to touch him, and then dropping them off at home.

Two women have reported him, but Berkeley police say more victims may be out there.

"Sexual related cases either go unreported or under-reported, so this is a very serious case. We want people to know and understand any time they are touched against their will, it is a crime," says Berkeley Police Officer Jamie Perkins.

Police first arrested Al Obadi in January 2008, after a woman claimed she got into his taxi at the Berkeley BART Station. He insisted she sit in the front seat with him. That's where he fondled her. The woman refused to testify and Al Obadi was never charged.

Then on April 10, 2010, another woman said Al Obadi picked her up at the intersection of Haste and Telegraph. He told her to sit in the front seat of his cab, where she says she was fondled and forced to touch the suspect.

"It's really bad. I'm ashamed that this is putting out a bad name for the taxis out there," says Gary Singh from Green Transportation.

Singh has driven a cab for 17 years and is outraged by what's happened, especially because he knows the suspect.

"I've seen him here and there for years and suddenly I hear about this and I'm really surprised by that. This is really sad, you know," says Singh.

Berkeley police say Al Obadi has no criminal past that they know of. The cities of Berkeley and Oakland run back ground and criminal checks on cabbies before they start working in their areas.

Some female taxi riders ABC7 spoke with say they plan to be more cautious now.

"Now that you've told me about this story, I never will sit in the front seat of a taxi," says Francey Liefert from Berkeley.

ABC7 spoke to the suspect in person on Tuesday night. He refused to talk on camera, but insists he is innocent, the police are targeting him, and that the women are lying.

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