A Lyft driver from Corona was convicted of sexually assaulting a passenger who fell asleep in his car last year, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Following a four-day trial, a jury convicted 31-year-old Welinton Fernandez of first-degree criminal sexual act and first-degree sexual abuse. He is due to return to court for sentencing on Dec. 10 for sentencing, where Fernandez faces up to 25 years in prison.
“The defendant has been convicted of what can only be described as the worst nightmare for any woman who has had to travel alone in this city,” said acting District Attorney John M. Ryan. “In this case, the victim had taken the precaution of using a ride-sharing app to take her directly from Point A to Point B to insure her safety. She had no way of knowing that her driver was a predator who took advantage when she fell asleep on the ride home and sexually forced himself on her. The defendant now faces serious time behind bars.”
According to trial testimony, after working two back-to-back shifts two hours prior, the 28-year-old victim met up with her friends at a Flushing bar just after midnight on Jan. 6, 2018. Lyft records indicate that the victim was picked up at the bar by Fernandez at 4:50 a.m. for a four-mile trip home. During the ride, the victim fell asleep and did not wake up until she felt Fernandez sexually assaulting her.
The victim, whose pants and underwear had been pulled down, fled the vehicle and ran into her home and showered. The next day, she notified police and was treated at a local hospital where a sexual assault forensic examiner prepared a sexual assault evidence kit.
Analysis of the kit found that the male DNA found on the victim’s body was consistent with Fernandez’s DNA.