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Cabbie convicted of assaulting fare loses bid to get back on the road

Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.

A former Yellowknife cab driver stripped of his chauffeur’s permit after being convicted of assaulting a teenage passenger has lost his bid to get back on the road.

City of Yellowknife council members unanimously moved to dismiss Abdullahi Ali’s appeal to have his permit reinstated during a special council meeting held Monday.

City of Yellowknife council members unanimously moved to dismiss Abdullahi Ali’s appeal to have his permit reinstated during a special council meeting held Monday. Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.

Ali, 47, had his chauffeur’s permit revoked by the city’s administration on Nov. 22 after being convicted of assaulting a male victim in his cab while on duty in April of last year.

A court-ordered ban prevents the publication of any information that could identify the victim.

Under the city’s Livery Licence by-law, chauffeur’s permits will be revoked if a driver is convicted of “any offence while on duty as a taxi driver.”

Ali was charged with sexual interference and sexual assault after the teenage victim told RCMP Ali had touched his face and inner thigh.

At trial, Ali testified that after driving the victim to his destination, the teen tried to pay with a debit card, but that the in-cab debit machine was out of paper. The cab driver of 20-plus years said the passenger turned aggressive and forcibly grabbed his debit card from him.

Ali said he felt “scared,” and pushed the teen away.

Judge Christine Gagnon accepted beyond a reasonable doubt that Ali had touched the teenager, but ruled the intent of the touching could not be inferred definitively.

Gagnon was left with a reasonable doubt and acquitted Ali of sexual interference.

He was found not guilty of sexual assault, but guilty of assault, a lesser offence.

Gagnon handed Ali a suspended sentence on Nov. 13. He was sentenced to 12 months probation and was left with a criminal record.

Gagnon’s ruling led the city’s administration to revoke Ali’s permit.

Making his case to council Monday, Ali asked to have the revocation replaced with a one-year suspension. Ali, backed by more than a dozen supporters in council chambers, said he relied on his employment as a cab driver to support his family and “survive.”

“I was scared. I meant no harm,” said Ali, describing an “unfortunate incident,” with a “bad passenger.”

In a letter to the city’s administration leading up to his appeal, Ali wrote “(Gagnon) had to find my guilty of simple assault based on my testimony about protecting myself by pushing the passenger.”

But Keith Sulzer, a lawyer representing city administration, said that’s not why Ali was convicted. Sulzer said Gagnon “explicitly rejected” Ali’s version of events.

Keith Sulzer, counsel representing the city’s administration, argued the revocation of Ali's permit should be upheld. Council members agreed in a vote Jan. 6. Brendan Burke/NNSL photo

He said Gagnon entered a conviction against Ali in the public’s interest, noting her commentary about the need for passengers to feel safe when entering a cab in Yellowknife.

Gagnon, Sulzer said, had the choice of handing Ali a conditional discharge – a sentence that wouldn’t leave the driver with a criminal record – but that she went with a suspended sentence, knowing Ali would be barred from driving a taxi on the streets of Yellowknife for good.

Council voted to uphold the revocation of Ali’s chauffeur's permit after a brief in-camera session.

Ali declined to comment following the vote.

Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.