By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - A driver for the popular taxi-hailing service Uber faces sexual assault charges after a passenger reported that he attacked her instead of driving her home from a bar, authorities said on Wednesday.
Patrick Aiello, 39, a sixth-grade social studies teacher in North Charleston, South Carolina, was booked into jail on Monday on felony charges of kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct, according to Charleston County Jail records.
Both offenses are punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
An Uber spokeswoman said the company dropped Aiello after learning of the charges and is assisting authorities with their investigation.
"Our hearts go out to the victim and her family as we investigate this incident," spokeswoman Kaitlin Durkosh said in an email.
Officials with the Charleston County school district could not be immediately reached for comment. Several media reports said Aiello was put on paid administrative leave.
The 23-year-old woman told police that she and a male friend had requested an Uber driver for a ride home from a beachfront bar in Isle of Palms, South Carolina, near Charleston, late Sunday evening, according to an arrest affidavit.
Aiello dropped them off at the man's house, but the woman asked Aiello to take her to her own house a few blocks away because she did not want to walk home in the dark, the affidavit said.
Aiello drove her to a location along the Savannah Highway in Charleston and demanded "sexual favors" in exchange for taking her home, it said.
She refused and repeatedly asked to be let out of the car, but Aiello pulled over, took her phone, held her down and assaulted her before kicking her out of the car, the affidavit said.
The woman was struck by a vehicle when she tried to flag someone down for help, according to the affidavit, and was treated in a hospital.
Aiello told a detective the woman was drunk, and that he did perform sexual acts on her, the affidavit said.
One of the fastest-growing sharing-economy companies, Uber operates its rideshare program in 57 countries, with an estimated value of more than $40 billion.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod in Charleston; writing by Karen Brooks; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)