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His victim wanted the harshest sentence possible: life in prison.
But on Wednesday morning, Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Krista Marx opted to sentence former Uber driver Gary Kitchings to 22 years in prison for three counts of sexual battery and false imprisonment, according to The Palm Beach Post.
Kitchings was convicted in March of raping a New York woman he’d picked up from the SunFest music festival in 2017. He admitted to cheating on his wife but said the sex with his fare was spontaneous and consensual, WPLG Local 10 reported.
Hitchings, 58, was a driver for the ride-hailing company for about six months at the time of the incident and, with his wife, served as a foster parent at Kid Sanctuary in suburban West Palm Beach, WPBF reported.
“What the rider reported is deeply disturbing,” Uber said in a statement the Miami Herald reported last year. “The driver has been removed from the app.”
According to the Jupiter police report, the woman hailed an Uber ride home after attending the downtown West Palm Beach waterfront festival on May 7, 2017.
Due to what she said were several billing problems with Uber, she took screenshots of the Uber app screen on her phone — which identified the driver as “Gary.” The license plate also matched his registration for the Nissan Versa he drove.
Kitchings began to flirt with her after dropping off two other female passengers, she told officers. The woman told police that Kitchings touched her leg and tried to run his right hand up her shirt, but she pushed it away and told him to stop.
As he became more aggressive, she told police she tried to jump out of the Nissan once they were off the highway, but the door was locked, the report says.
At that point, Kitchings told her that he had a gun under his seat and threatened to kill her if she didn’t do what he wanted, according to the report.
The woman told police that Kitchings forced her to perform oral sex, according to the report. He was acquitted of this one sexual battery charge, the Sun Sentinel reported.
The abuse continued when he reached her Jupiter condo, she said.
There, he followed her as she ran to her door, forced her inside, threatened again to kill her, this time adding that he’d kill her dogs, too, and raped her. He did not use a condom, she told police.
When he left he told her he would come back to her house and kill her if she told anyone, the report said.
She called 911 after locking herself in her bedroom in case he made good on his threat.
At the sentencing, the woman said despite the resulting anxiety, she “felt it was my responsibility to report it. This is why as hard as this process has been, I did it to protect other women from people like Gary,” the Palm Beach Post reported.
In 2016, the woman alleged another man raped her in a New York City hotel. That man also said the sex was consensual but was convicted by a Manhattan jury on May 30.
The Palm Beach County judge, citing Kitchings’ lack of previous criminal history and his former work as a foster parent, didn’t feel the charges stemming from the Uber ride merited a life sentence.