UPDATE NO. 5, NOV. 9, 10:21 A.M.: Edward Caban quit his job with Uber to begin a new driving job because he was so distraught over his violent Oct. 30 encounter with customer Benjamin Allen Golden. But Caban remains so distraught that he has reportedly quit his new job and is moving out of state.
"Mr. Caban has sought the assistance of professional counselors and has decided to remove himself and relocate to a place where there is greater support from friends and family," announced his lawyer, Rivers Morrell III. The announcement Caban is leaving the state came a day after the 23-year-old stated publicly that he will not accept Golden's apology, and Morrell said his client would not meet privately with the fired Taco Bell corporate manager.
UPDATE NO. 4, NOV. 5, 9:31 A.M.: Benjamin Allen Golden reportedly says of the viral video of his alleged slap attack on Uber driver Edward Caban, "It's not me in the video." Cue the soap opera-y, evil-twin, switched-body court defense. Uh ... check that. Speaking through tears "exclusively" to KCBS2/KCAL's Michele Gile, Golden continued, "It was hard to watch. I'm ashamed." Of his firing by Taco Bell, the former brand manager said, "I'm just a regular guy trying to make his way in the world and I don't know how to do that now." As his lawyer had done earlier on his behalf, Golden also apologized to Caban. "I want to apologize. I wasn't in the right state. I'd like him to know that that's not me and that I'm sincerely sorry." But Caban isn't buying it. ""I don't have any reason to believe him as a person. I don't trust him," Caban told the station. "... He says that's not him, but that's the only him that I know. It was him who had the first drink. It was him who made the decision to go out that night. It was him who made the decision to get into the Uber." Caban suspects the video going viral, and the public outrage that followed, is probably motivating Golden. "I'm not sure he would feel the same way if this didn't go viral," Caban said. "I don't know if he's crying because he was outed."
UPDATE NO. 3, NOV. 4, 4:46 P.M.: Shortly after Benjamin Allen Golden reached out to Edward Caban's lawyer to seek a private meeting with the Uber driver so the fired Taco Bell manager could apologize, Golden learned that Caban had filed a personal injury lawsuit against him. Golden also issued a public apology because he "really is very remorseful and wants to express that," the 32-year-old's attorney, Courtney Pilchman, told City News Service. "We did not send out any press release to combat a lawsuit. ... I learned of the lawsuit this afternoon." Despite the suit, Golden is taking a wait and see attitude to determine whether Caban will take him up on the meeting offer, Pilchman said. The lawyer added that her client does not have a drinking problem--while acknowledging Golden was arrested in Kentucky a few years ago for drunken driving. "He's not a big drinker, and so I guess he went out for Halloween festivities and he knew he was going to be drinking," Pilchman said. "But he doesn't have a consistent drinking pattern or habit. He's a social drinker who doesn't go out very often." The lawyer claims her client doesn't remember what happened: "The only sort of recollection that he has is getting arrested, but he did watch the video and he was appalled at the behavior and did not recognize the behavior. This was something beyond out of character for him. I've been with him for only a couple of days and he's very emotional about it because it's not who he is. He certainly wants to figure out why he did what he did. He'll go to counseling to figure out what happened because it's disturbing to him, but he has no history of aggressive behavior." Meanwhile, Caban's lawyer, Rivers Morrell III, says his 23-year-old client is so frightened by the incident that he is sleeping with a shotgun within arm's reach (or as the NRA refers to it: "sleeping"). "This is basically a nightmare for him," Morrell also told City News Service. "He's having a very, very tough time sleeping. As of yesterday I don't think he's slept at all. He's still got fear. He's fearful this guy will come after him. That may seem odd to you and I, but he's never been in any sort of altercation of any kind." The lawyer claims Caban put the video camera in his vehicle after consulting with other Uber drivers who'd complained that some customers lie about problems to get refunds or are too drunk to give proper instructions. Morrell added that Caban swung the camera around as the interaction with Golden got out of hand. The driver's lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court seeks unspecified damages.
UPDATE NO. 2, NOV. 3, 11:56 A.M.: Benjamin Allen Golden was charged today with four misdemeanor counts, including assault on a public transportation property, battery on a public transit employee with injury, assault and battery, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office. If convicted, the 32-year-old Newport Beach resident (and now former Taco Bell Corp. employee; read on) faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $10,000 fine. The OCDA says it will request Golden be held on $20,000 bail at his arraignment hearing scheduled for Nov 17 at West Justice Center, Westminster. He is currently out of custody.
UPDATE NO. 1, NOV. 2, 5:29 P.M.: Benjamin Allen Golden has not yet been convicted of a crime in the attack on an Uber driver that was captured on video and spread wide on YouTube, but the 32-year-old has been convicted in the Court of Public Chalupa. This just in from Taco Bell: "Given the behavior of the individual, it is clear he can no longer work for us. We have also offered and encouraged him to seek professional help."
Make a run for the border and away from controversy.
ORIGINAL POST, NOV. 2, 2:55 P.M.: The promise of a bright new e-commerce future has again come crashing into the realities of modern society as an Uber driver says he's had it after being assaulted in Costa Mesa and couriers in Irvine claim they are being cheated by retailing giant Amazon.
Shortly after 8 p.m. Friday, 32-year old Benjamin Allen Golden had an Uber driver pick him up from a bar in the Newport Pier area, but while being driven away he "was unable to clearly give directions" about where he wanted to go, according to Lt. Greg Scott of the Costa Mesa Police Department.
In a parking lot at 1835 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa--hey, there's a BevMo there!--the driver told Golden to get out of the vehicle, prompting the rider to punch and slap the side of the driver's face, Scott said.
"In self-defense, the driver pepper sprayed Golden," reports the lieutenant.
Golden, a senior associate brand manager with Taco Bell of Irvine, was arrested by Costa Mesa officers on suspicion of assault and disorderly conduct. Booked into the city jail in lieu of $500 bail, he was later released on a written promise to appear the following morning.
Edward Caban, the driver, told KCBS2 that the passenger was drunk, belligerent and uncooperative shortly after getting into the car, even refusing to put on a seat belt.
Caban is not satisfied with the arrest, saying this type of thing has happened too often to him, that Uber has failed to do anything about it and that he will no longer drive for the company.
Uber claims drivers are trained about belligerent passengers and instructed to call 9-1-1 if things get out of hand.
Safety is among the reasons many Uber drivers claim they should be regular employees of the company and not independent contractors. Amazon is hearing the same thing from Irvine-based drivers who are suing the company.
Last Tuesday--or just weeks after the launch of the Amazon Prime Now service that promises two-hour delivery for tens of thousands of products--the drivers sued in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming their status with the company violates minimum wage and overtime pay laws.
Amazon considers them independent contractors who work for Glendale-based courier service Scoobeez. Even though "Amazon" is emblazoned on the drivers' uniforms, the retailer doesn't believe it is on the hook for paying payroll taxes, workers' compensation costs or unemployment insurance taxes.
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The thing is, claims the suit, Scoobeez doesn't pick up those costs either, and the drivers say they have to provide their own vehicles and gasoline. After deducting automobile expenses, the drivers claim, their wages fall below California's minimum wage of $9 per hour. Likewise, they get no time-and-a-half rate when they work more than eight hours a day. The suit also contends the drivers are not receiving tips, even though those who push a button on a Prime Now app can leave one.
Amazon says it does not comment on pending litigation, and Scoobeez officials could not be reached for comment.
The drivers are represented by Oakland-based attorney Beth Ross, who in 2014 reached a $227 million settlement deal with FedEx over similar allegations.