An Alaska Yellow Cab driver arrested on a charge of raping a woman Sunday afternoon at a cab-service lot spent just hours in jail before being released on $5,000 bail, police said.
Police say they arrested Chidiebere Nwokorie, 43, of Anchorage Sunday on several charges including first-degree sexual assault.
He remains licensed to drive a cab. His bail conditions do not restrict him from doing so, though he was forbidden to have any contact with the victim, police said.
An advocate for victims of sexual assault on Monday called the bail amount and lack of a requirement for a third party to watch over him "absurd."
"One, it sends a poor message to the community that the judicial system isn't taking sexual assault seriously," said Nancy Haag, executive director of Standing Together Against Rape, or STAR.
Also, she said, "it compromises victim safety as well as the public safety" by allowing a suspect out of jail without even a third-party custodian to keep tabs on him. She said the judicial system as a whole does take sexual assault seriously.
"I think this is just a poor decision on one magistrate's part," Haag said.
Magistrate James Stanley set the bail amount. A message left for him was not returned.
There's no bail schedule in Alaska for felony charges and no typical amount, said Anchorage District Attorney Adrienne Bachman. When the magistrate set bail for Nwokorie, a police officer was present but no prosecutor, as is the norm for the preliminary court appearance, she said.
Bail could be adjusted at a special bail hearing, but none has yet been set in the case, Bachman said.
Police say the assault occurred in the service lot on Ship Avenue, in an industrial area northeast of downtown.
A little before 2:30 p.m. Sunday, the woman, frightened and clutching her pants in her hand, flagged down a passing motorist and told him a Yellow Cab driver had sexually assaulted her, police Lt. Dave Parker said. The assault happened just before that, Parker said. The woman is 27, Parker said.
The motorist, Bradley Orr, was on his way home from the shooting range in Birchwood. He was in the Ship Avenue area because he has a storage unit there, Parker said.
Orr called police immediately. While waiting for police to arrive, the suspect driver pulled up in his cab, police say.
The victim became upset and asked Orr to get her away from the cab driver. The cab driver got out of his vehicle and walked toward Orr's vehicle. Police say Orr got a pistol from his back seat and held the driver there until police arrived.
The woman told detectives that she was walking from Mountain View to the 5th Avenue Mall downtown to get a battery for her cell phone when the cab driver pulled over and asked whether she wanted a ride.
They drove around a while but never got a battery, Parker said.
The cabbie brought her to the cab-service lot and said he'd give her a ride home in his personal vehicle, which was parked there, police said. Instead, he assaulted her, police said.
Nwokorie -- who went by Norman -- received his chauffeur's license in 2008, according to municipal transportation inspector Brent Fraser.
Like many cab drivers in Anchorage, Nworkorie was an independent operator who contracted with the vehicle's owner, Taylor Taxi, Fraser said. Alaska Yellow Cab is one of two taxi dispatch companies that operate in town, but it doesn't employ the drivers or own the taxis, the office manager there said. She said Yellow Cab had no comment on the criminal case.
There's nothing in city code that prevents someone facing sexual assault charges from driving a taxi, though a conviction would bar it, Fraser said.
The company that owns the taxi driven by Nworkorie didn't return calls to answer questions about his status.
Because he has regular access to women traveling alone, detectives are concerned he may have other victims who have been afraid to come forward.
Police ask for anyone with information about other victims to call APD at 786-8900.
Reach Lisa Demer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4390.
By LISA DEMER