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Charge: Uber driver tried to rape Seattle-area passenger

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SEATTLE -- A Seattle-area Lyft and Uber driver accused of trying to sexually assault a passenger has been charged with attempted rape.

King County prosecutors say SeaTac resident Dereje Y. Kebede sexually assaulted the 22-year-old woman after picking her up in Seattle in March 2015. An arrest warrant is outstanding for Kebede, 40.

Kebede is alleged to have picked up the woman outside a Seattle club and taken her to a Tukwila motel room. Investigators claim he tried to rape the woman, who was extremely intoxicated and had been kicked out of a Capitol Hill nightclub.

Investigators say Kebede had been logged in to the Uber system the night of the incident, and described himself as a driver for both Uber and Lyft. Kebede is alleged to have told police he'd had sex with several women who couldn't pay their fares.

Investigators contend the woman was in no condition to consent to sex the morning of the attempted rape. She did not book Kebede through Uber's service, but instead hoped into his car on the street.

The woman told investigators she woke at The Knights Inn on the morning of March 29 to find a stranger in bed with her, a Tukwila Police Department detective said in charging papers. She was nearly naked, and anxious to get out of the hotel room.

The man - since identified by police as Kebede - woke as she was searching for her belongings and informed he had sex with her, the detective continued, recounting the woman's statements to police.

According to charging papers, Kebede, behind the wheel of a Toyota Prius, gave the woman a ride to a friend's home in North Seattle. The woman broke down shortly thereafter, and a passing Seattle police officer stopped after hearing her screaming inside the house.

The night of the incident, the woman had been drinking with friends on Broadway when she was removed from a club. A witness told police the woman had been attempting to hail a cab outside the club when a grey Toyota Prius pulled up.

The man told police he and the woman's other companions thought she had called an Uber and was being picked up. It wasn't until the following morning that they learned something had gone wrong.

Kebede was identified as a suspect after police linked him to a phone the woman had used after she woke. According to charging papers, Kebede had filed a theft report using that number earlier in the year.

The woman later identified Kebede from a photo montage. The detective noted the woman was visibly disturbed at seeing Kebede's photo in the six-image montage.

"I believe it's the man who raped me," she told police, according to charging papers.

Contacted at his SeaTac home, Kebede met with police on Aug. 4. According to charging papers, Kebede described himself as a driver working through Lyft and Uber who generally works nights in Seattle.

Kebede said he remembered picking up the woman and taking her to a Tukwila motel, the detective said in court papers. Kebede is alleged to have described the woman as wearing "clothes that a baby wears."

According to charging papers, Kebede claimed the woman was flirting with him.

While he didn't claim the woman had done so, Kebede went on to explain that as many women who could not pay their fare offered him sex.

"Some of them, like, they don't have money, but the last option they have, you know, just to whatever, sex, and then, you know, they want to go home," Kebede said to the detective, according to charging papers.

"It's like $40, $50, they do it, if they don't want to pay that," he is alleged to have continued. "They'll just have sex with you instead."

Kebede is alleged to have told police that he nearly had sex with the woman but then stopped because he wasn't attracted to her.

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