April 10, 2015
For Immediate Release
Contact, Ali Najmi, Esq. (347) 765-1345
APPEAL PLANNED IN CASE OF TAXI DRIVER WHO ASKED CUSTOMERS NOT TO ENGAGE IN SEXUAL CONDUCT IN HIS TAXI
ADMINISTRAIVE JUDGE’S $15,000 FINE IS ARBITRARY AND UNREASONABLE
Mohammed Dahbi, a father of four, resident of NYCHA housing, and a taxi driver for 17 years was found to have violated Section 8-107 of the New York City Human Rights Law by asking two customers to stop kissing in his taxi.
Mr. Dahbi was wrongfully accused of discriminating against the two female passengers because of their sexual orientation.
An Administrative Judge part of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, which adjudicates charges brought by New York City agencies, ruled that Mr. Dahbi did not refuse service or deny a public accommodation based on the passenger’s sexual orientation. Mr. Dahbi never utilized any language regarding the women’s sexuality and he never forced them out of the taxi or stopped his meter.
However, in a gross error the Administrative Judge still found Mr. Dahbi guilty of making a declaration which made the passengers feel unwelcome in a public accommodation because of their sexual orientation. Mr. Dahbi testified that he has made similar statements and requests to heterosexual couples. Both parties testified that Mr. Dahbi never made any statements about their sexual orientation when making the request.
Mr. Dahbi was fined $15,000, an astronomical figure to be divided between the two complainants and the City of New York.
“We will be pursuing an appeal of this decision. The Administrative Judge acted unreasonably and made conclusions of fact that cannot be substantiated based on the record. The fine amount is completely unfair given that there was no real injury here” said Dahbi’s attorney Ali Najmi
The case was covered by the NY POST and other media outlets. The article is copied below:
A yellow cabbie who claimed he had a “no kissing policy” in his taxi is facing a $15,000 fine for allegedly ordering two female passengers to stop smooching — and then shouting vulgar epithets at them when they got out.
TV producer Christina Spitzer and her actress girlfriend Kassie Thornton said they barely exchanged a peck in the backseat early into their ride in Manhattan when hack Mohammed Dahbi became enraged.
“Keep that for the bedroom or get out of the cab,” Dahbi allegedly shouted during the trip from Columbus Circle to Brooklyn’s Sunset Park.
Unnerved, the duo said they got out of the cab in the West Village, confronted Dahbi about the perceived discrimination, and then got into a fight about paying the fare.
That’s when he allegedly called them “bitches,” “c–ts,” and “whores,” according to official documents.
At a hearing last month, Dhabi told an unsympathetic administrative law judge that Spitzer and Thornton were doing more than just G-rated canoodling.
He said they were kissing “heavily” and “touching all over each other” – including “on the chest and the breast.”
But Spitzer testified that she had just had oral surgery and was tentative about even kissing her girlfriend that day.
They also had a dog and a pet carrier stuffed into the back seat with them during the September 18, 2011 fare.
The couple, who are now engaged, flew from California to testify at the administrative trial in the city – which for unknown reasons took more than three years to schedule.
Neither she nor Spitzer – who would each get $5,000, while the city gets the remaining $5,000 – could immediately be reached for comment.
But Dhabi’s lawyer, Ali Najmi, told The Post that the cabbie has told heterosexual couples to knock it off when their make-out sessions became too much of a distraction to his driving.
He noted that Dhabi has been volunteering at a food pantry that serves gay, low-income clients, and that he plans to appeal the hearing officer’s ruling.
“My client never once mentioned anything about their sexuality and never threw them out of the taxi,” said Najmi.
“In fact, the complaint doesn’t even allege that he said anything about their sexuality and the two women testified that they are the ones who decided to exit the taxi.”
The judge’s recommendation went to the city’s Human Rights Commission, which has yet to decide whether to impose the fine.
A spokeswoman for the agency did not respond to questions about the delay in the case.
Additional reporting by Sophia Rosenbaum