Something ‘just didn’t feel right’
Alleged victim in Uber driver rape case testifies at trial
WEST CHESTER >> She woke up in her room that morning not knowing how she had gotten home, or when, but feeling frightened and panicky, even if she did not understand why.
“I woke up and I just shot up out of bed,” the 23-year-old Phoenixville woman told members of the Common Pleas Court jury hearing the case of an Uber driver accused of raping a female passenger he took home from the Valley Forge Casino. “I felt like I could not breathe. It was really scary. I didn’t know anything.”
“I just started crying,” she said. “I had a real bad gut feeling. I did not feel OK. Something just didn’t feel right in my mind and my body. It just didn’t feel right.”
Not until several months later when the state police trooper investigating the circumstances behind her case visited her did the woman learn just what had happened that morning.
State Trooper Amos Glick informed her that results of a DNA test showed that the ride-sharing driver who took her home from the casino that night, Ahmed Mostafa Elgaafary, had had sexual intercourse with her — something that to this day she says she cannot remember.
“How did you feel when Trooper Glick told you?” Assistant District Attorney Alexis Shaw asked the woman during her testimony Tuesday. “Not good,” she answered quietly. “It is a lot to take in.”
The woman, whose name is being withheld by the Daily Local News because of the nature
of the charges in the case, testified for about 90 minutes in Judge Patrick Carmody’s courtroom.
As the eight women and four men on the jury hearing Elgaafary’s case listened intently, she described how she had gone to the casino with her mother and step-father for dinner and a night out, had several drinks, then lost track of what happened to her for several hours until she woke up in her bedroom at the house she shared with her family in Charlestown.
Elgaafary, 27, of Lansdale, is charged with rape of an unconscious person, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, and indecent assault. If convicted, he faces a possible term in state prison. He has conceded, through his defense attorneys, that he did have sex with the woman the night of the incident, but maintains that there is no evidence that he forced himself on her.
Ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft have been struggling to deal with accusations that female passengers are the targets of unwanted attention by their drivers, or in more extreme cases, the victims of attacks. The situations can range from ones in which the passengers feel uncomfortable with comments made to them by drivers about their appearance or directly personal questions about their marital status to outright physical or sexual assaults.
It is believed that Elgaafary’s case is the first Uberrelated sexual assault in Chester County.
The woman spoke softly and at time haltingly in her testimony, both on direct examination from Shaw and cross examination from defense attorney Melissa McCafferty during her hour and a half on the witness stand. A graduate of Great Valley High School who attended college in
western Pennsylvania, she said she and her family had since moved out of the townhouse in Charlestown where they lived at the time of the incident.
According to her description of events, she and her mother and step-father went to the casino in Upper Merion the night of Feb. 9, 2018, a Friday. They were regular visitors at the casino complex, with her step-father enjoying playing blackjack and her mother socializing with friends there.
The trio ate dinner at the Revolution Chop House, where she had a glass of wine, and then moved to the Center Bar, where they met a friend of her mother’s named John Mudrick, a “high roller” at the casino who bought her more drinks during the night while he and her mother sang karaoke at the Valley Tavern — “not very well.” Later, they returned to the Center Bar and sat talking with the bartender there.
The woman, who was 21 at the time, said she could not remember how many drinks she consumed that night or what type they were except for several glasses of wine. “I really don’t remember much,” although she could identify herself sitting at the bar with her mother in a surveillance video Shaw played for her.
Her mother and stepfather left at some point and Mudrick and a bartender at the casino, Jessica Hernandez, ordered an Uber to take her home, something she had done in the past, around 2:20 a.m.
When she woke up the next morning, she testified, she could not find her phone and could not call in to work. She noticed bruises on her thighs, and had a terrible headache. There was dirt underneath her fingernails, and she could not remember how she got into her house. She waited for her mother and step-father to return home, and told them how uneasy she felt.
After getting a new phone, the woman was able to get a text message from Mudrick that showed her the route and duration of the Uber ride home. It was far from the most direct route from Valley Forge to her home just outside Phoenixville, detouring across the Schuylkill River into Upper Providence — and had lasted almost an hour — from 2:21 a.m. to 3:14 a.m. — rather than the normal ride time of 15 minutes.
Eventually, she went to Pottstown Hospital and underwent a sexual assault examination, later meeting with Glick and giving him a statement.
In cross examination by McCafferty, who is sharing defense duties with attorney Jonathan Altman of West Chester, the woman maintained that she had no independent memory of being at the Center Bar at 2 a.m. or leaving in the Uber. McCafferty also asked whether she remembered what condition she was in that night, noting that Mudrick and Hernandez said she seemed fine — “good to go” when the Uber came.
McCafferty also asked about an ex-boyfriend that had tried to contact her that night and whether she had been upset by that. The woman said, however, that she was happy that she was no longer seeing the man.
Ultimately, the woman said she had no recollection of having sex with Elgaafary, “where or when, in the car or in the woods, or on a sidewalk” as McCafferty put it. “I just had a different feeling, a bad feeling.”
Glick, a seven-year veteran of the state police assigned to the Lancaster barracks, was able to identify Elgaafary as the Uber driver who had picked her up the night of Feb. 10. According to a criminal complaint, the Egyptian national appeared for an interview on March 2, and said he remembered picking the woman up, and noticing that she appeared intoxicated. He said she vomited multiple times during the ride, but denied having any sexual contact with her. He voluntarily agreed to provide Glick with a sample of his DNA.
When Glick later received the results of the examination, he said the state police forensic lab had detected evidence of sperm on the victim. A DNA analysis of that positively identified his DNA in the examination results, allegedly confirming that he had had sex with the woman.
He was arrested on Oct. 31, 2018, and is free on bail.
At the end of her testimony, the woman told Shaw that there were flashbacks she had experienced in the months before Glick told her the results of the DNA tests.
In one, she feels someone grabbing her leg as they reached over the center console of a car. Another came with the vision of being in the back seat of a car, with a male figure on top of her, hitting her head against the backseat door of a car.
“I came out of it,” she said of the fleeting memory. “And I just started crying.”