If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.
A Superior Court judge on Friday called the allegations that an ex-Uber driver sexually assaulted and raped a woman in Bangor in June “very disturbing” before setting his bail at $15,000 cash.
Joseph Graston, 28, of Milo was arrested Wednesday and charged with two counts of gross sexual assault, one a Class B and the other a Class C crime, and two counts of unlawful sexual contact, one a Class C and the other a Class D crime.
Justice Bruce Mallonee set the bail requested by the Penobscot County District Attorney’s office. Conditions include no contact with the victim and a requirement that Graston comply with a Maine Pretrial Services contract.
The contract calls for Graston to be under house arrest unless he is working, attending pre-approved appointments, meeting with his attorney or in court.
Through the attorney of the day, Graston said that he could not post such a high bail. Bangor attorney Joseph Belisle asked that Graston be released on personal recognizance bail.
Graston and his family moved to Maine eight months ago from New Mexico and have few ties to Maine, Belisle told Mallonee.
The victim was “celebrating a life event” at a Bangor nightclub in early June and had become intoxicated, Assistant District Attorney Joanne Lewis told the judge Friday. She took an Uber home, and the next morning contacted Bangor police and went to a local emergency room, where a sexual assault exam was performed.
The victim did not recall the specifics of the assault but Bangor police matched DNA found on her body with DNA taken from the Uber driver, Lewis said.
The prosecutor also said that the investigation revealed that Graston’s car was outside of the victim’s apartment for 34 minutes the night of the alleged assault.
Graston allegedly told police that the woman “came on” to him but he denied raping her, Lewis said. He also said that she became ill on the drive from the bar to her apartment.
He has no criminal history, according to Lewis.
Joseph Graston, 28, of Milo was charged with gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact.
Though this is the first reported case of an Uber driver sexually assaulting a customer in Bangor, according to police, thousands of the ride-hailing app’s drivers and passengers have reported being sexually assaulted or raped over the past several years, according to safety reports the company began publishing in 2019.
Uber received 3,824 reports across five categories of sexual assault, ranging from nonconsensual kissing of a non-sexual body part to rape in 2019 and 2020, according to the company’s latest safety report released this summer. Some 388 of those cases were rape.
If Graston is unable to post bail, he will be held at the Penobscot County Jail until his case is resolved.
Uber fired Graston following the allegation, according to Bangor police.
If convicted, Graston faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 on the Class B charge, up to five years in prison and fine of up to $5,000 on the Class C charges and up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000 on the Class D charge.
A conviction on any one of those crimes would require Graston to register as a sex offender.