Woman who coughed on Uber driver could face up to 16 years in prison after being charged with two felonies

Arna Kimiai arrested on Sunday after turning herself in to police

James Crump@thejamescrump
Thursday 18 March 2021 13:46
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Uber passenger to turn herself in after video showed her coughing at driver, other passenger in custody

The woman who coughed on a San Francisco Uber driver in a video that has since gone viral has been charged with two felonies and additional misdemeanours, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Arna Kimiai, 24, who was also filmed shouting racial slurs and pulling off the mask of Uber driver Subhakar Khadka last week, is facing one felony charge of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury against a transit operator.

She is facing a second felony charge for first-degree attempted robbery on a transit operator for allegedly trying to take Mr Khadka’s phone from the dashboard of his vehicle.

Ms Kimiai has also been charged with battery on a transportation driver and violation of a local Covid-19 health ordinance, both of which are misdemeanour offences.

Uber drivers and passengers are required to wear face masks as the US continues to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed more than 538,000 people and infected close to 30 million residents in the country.

If convicted of all the charges, the 24-year-old could face up to 16 years in state prison and be forced to pay $3,000 (£2,148) in fines.

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Ms Kimiai was charged by the authorities just a few days after she turned herself in to San Francisco Police for the incident that occurred on 7 March.

During the filmed incident, which caused uproar after being uploaded to social media, Ms Kimiai got into Mr Khadka’s car alongside her friend Malaysia King, 24, and a third unidentified woman.

A few minutes into the trip, Mr Khadka noticed that Ms Kimiai was not wearing a face mask and asked her to put one on.

She refused and shouted “F*** the mask!” after being driven to a nearby gas station to buy a face covering, before then shouting racial slurs at Mr Khadka.

Ms Kimiai could then be seen attempting to snatch the driver’s mobile phone from the front of the car and pulling down his mask, following a series of dramatic coughs — seemingly in a bid to intimate him.

Her friend, Ms King, was also filmed shouting “I’ve got corona,” during the incident. She was arrested last week after turning herself in, and was charged with assault with a caustic chemical, assault and battery, conspiracy and violations of a health code.

After Mr Khadka ended the ride early, Ms Kimiai repeatedly threatened to assault the driver before she and her friends left the vehicle. Police noted that she attempted to pepper spray Mr Khadka before fleeing the area.

Following the viral video, Ms Kimiai was suspended from Uber and another ride-hailing app, Lyft, who both operate in the Bay area.

Speaking about the incident to KPIX 5, Mr Khadka said: “I never said anything bad to them,” and added: “I never cursed, I was not raised that way. I don’t hit people, I am not raised that way.”

The driver went on to say that the women verbally abused him because he is South Asian, and that: “If I was another complexion, I would have not gotten that treatment from them.”

After being urged by San Francisco Police lieutenant Tracy McCray to turn herself in “promptly”, Ms Kimiai went to the authorities on 14 March and was booked into San Francisco County Jail later that night, where she currently remains.

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