Home News Marine vet accused of choking out Uber driving going 65 MPH

Marine vet accused of choking out Uber driving going 65 MPH

Maxwell Sweeney arrest photo.

Chesterfield County Circuit Judge T.J. Hauler convicted , 23, of misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor vandalism and imposed a 12-month suspended jail sentence on each count for the April 24 attack. The judge also ordered to pay $2,246 in restitution to the driver, Rene Ernesto Sanchez Espinozo, a former police officer and bodyguard from El Salvador who suffered symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the assault.

had pleaded no contest in September to felony unlawful wounding and misdemeanor vandalism, and Hauler provisionally accepted ‘s pleas and found the evidence sufficient for a conviction. But his attorney asked Hauler to withhold a finding of guilt until ‘s sentencing hearing last week.

After listening to defense arguments on Wednesday, Hauler found guilty of the lesser count after learning the Marine Corps had expelled with an “Other than Honorable Discharge,” which the judge likened to a felony conviction, said Chesterfield prosecutor Juan Vega.

Vega had recommended that be convicted of felony unlawful wounding and misdemeanor vandalism and serve two months in jail.

The “Other Than Honorable Discharge” is the Marine’s most severe classification of administrative discharge, which is given to Marines who violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice by committing such offenses as security violations, domestic- or duty-related violence, and theft. Civilian convictions with confinement also warrant a similar discharge. Marines can request it in lieu of a court-martial at the discretion of their commanding officer.

originally was charged with the more serious offense of injuring a person through strangulation. But in an agreement between the prosecution and defense, he pleaded no contest to unlawful wounding on Sept. 14.

According to evidence, and a friend, both of whom were with a Marine attachment at Fort Lee, had been drinking in a bar in Richmond and Espinozo had been hired by a third party to pick them up and take them to Petersburg.

But during the drive, and his friend asked to be taken to a different location. When Espinozo notified Uber, an online signal was sent to a woman who was paying for the fare, and she declined to accept the charges for the new destination.

Espinozo then advised and his friend that he would have to pull over so that a new transaction could be initiated, and that would require payment from them.

That’s when , in the rear seat, moved forward through the center console and placed Espinozo in a chokehold. After the victim managed to stop the car, jumped out and ran into the woods. Espinozo also ran from the car, but his other passenger, who was not involved in the assault, stayed close by.

passed out in a wooded area and was arrested the next morning after he awoke and interstate travelers called police about a man attempting to wave down cars for a ride.

had been drinking for much of the day on April 24 and told a state trooper after his arrest that he could not recall “anything” after about 3:30 p.m. that day.

The attack was the second on a local Uber driver during a six-month span.

In August, a former Old Dominion University student living in Chesterfield was convicted of abducting and carjacking a female Uber driver after she picked him up from the Midlothian Walmart on Oct. 25, 2015. Kefha S. Nyaanga, 22, forced the victim into the trunk of her car before driving her to several bank ATMs to obtain cash.

mbowes@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6450

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