A taxi driver accused of telling a passenger he had a bomb in his car, was thinking of joining ISIS and could have “done a better job” than the Paris terrorists, should be suspended for six months and fined $1,150, an administrative law judge has recommended.
Judge Kevin Casey refused to yank the license of cabbie Hisham Ahmed, as the Taxi & Limousine Commission had requested, after police said he posed “no threat” and after determining his volatile remarks were “out of character” in a 20-year career.
Casey said Ahmed deserved a lesser punishment for scaring the daylights out of his passenger, an Australian businessman.
“The complaintant credibly testified that [Ahmed] repeatedly stated that he wanted to blow up the taxi cab,” the judge wrote in a March 16 decision.
“Those remarks were made late at night in the close confines of a taxi, less than two weeks after a horrific attack by terrorists in Paris.”
“[Ahmed] had already alluded to the Paris Attack and his desire to join ISIS,” he added. “Though the police later concluded that [Ahmed] did not pose a threat to the public, that finding did not diminish the distress endured by the complainant as he rode in the cab.”
Ahmed’s lawyer called the recommended penalty excessive.
“The police investigated Mr. Ahmed and found him to be no threat whatsoever,” said attorney Daniel Ackman.
He disputed the judge’s finding that Ahmed had made the remarks and said that even if he had, “the punishment for speaking is excessive.”
The allegedly terror-fueled cab ride began shortly before midnight, in late November, when the businessman hopped in Ahmed’s cab near Third Avenue and East 21st St.
Just two minutes into his ride to his midtown hotel, the businessman testified that Ahmed asked him about the Paris terror attacks.
The passenger recounted that he told Ahmed the attacks were “unfortunate or very upsetting.”
The cabbie responded, he said, by boasting he “could’ve done a better job.”
It was the first in a string of disturbing remarks Ahmed allegedly made during the short ride, including asking his fare how to get an “ISIS visa” and wondering repeatedly if he should “blow the taxi up tonight.”
The ride was a “terrifying” and “terrible” experience, the businessman told the judge, adding the incident “ruined the night” and turned what had been a great trip to New York into a “an absolute disappointment.”
The businessman, who was not identified, called the police and TLC shortly after arriving at his hotel on Lexington Avenue at 37th Street.
Ahmed, who has been a cab driver for two decades, testified that he had no recollection of the businessman or of the alleged incident, and had never told a passenger he wanted to join ISIS or
blow up his taxi.
The judge also found that Ahmed broke TLC rules by smoking in the cab that night.
The TLC doesn’t have to follow the judge’s recommendation.
Agency spokesman Allan Fromberg said TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi would make a decision early next month.
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