Sexual assault allegations against a well-known cab driver operating in Oxford have left the community in “disbelief” and caused some to question what communities do to ensure the safety of passengers.
The alleged incidents came after the riders did what is encouraged by law enforcement — calling for a ride when people feel the need or desire not to drive themselves.
“You do everything right,” said Lt. Lara Fening from the Oxford police department.
But sometimes, it can go wrong. Two female Miami students filed separate reports accusing Sherman Jackson II, 38, owner and operator of Sherman’s Safe Ride, of sexually assaulting them in his vehicle, according to Oxford police.
Jackson is well known in the Oxford community and also operates a lawn service, police said. Miami University’s students were “very shocked” and in “disbelief” by the charges against Jackson, said Fening.
On Tuesday, Jackson, charged with three counts of rape and three counts of sexual battery involving two women, pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was in Butler County Common Pleas Court for arraignment in the indicted charges that were handed down by a grand jury last week.
Bond was set at $65,000 for Jackson, and he was ordered not to operate his taxi service, not to leave Butler County and to report to pre-trial services.
The first alleged victim called 911 at about 12:35 a.m. Dec. 8 from West Collins Street and reported she had been assaulted, according to the police report.
The second incident was reported by a female who said she was assaulted between 1:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. Dec. 9 on Brown Road, according to the report.
The first woman called 911 three times, once screaming, “Let me out, let me out” before hanging up. Dispatchers called the woman back and determined she was at the McDonald’s on South Locust Street.
“He was supposed to drop me off at home,” the woman sobbed in the call. “As soon as I got in the cab, he said he was going to take me to McDonald’s. I said, ‘No I want to go home.’ ”
Jackson approached officers Dec. 9 when they were impounding his 2001 Chevrolet Suburban and he agreed to talk with them, according to a police report. After the interview, he was booked into the Butler County Jail.
As part of the city’s taxi permit process, Fening said Jackson underwent a background check and passed. Fening said the two women who accused Jackson of rape “did what we want them to do” (in calling for a cab), and that was especially troubling for the Oxford community.
There are at least five taxi companies and additional Uber drivers operating in Oxford, Fening said.
Wes Ramsey, 21, a senior studying philosophy at Miami, said he believes some students are “weary” of using taxis because of the recent headlines. But he excepts the demand for cabs to increase as cold weather approaches.
“You are in a car with a stranger and it’s voluntary,” he said. “It’s not like the windows are up and the man is offering you candy. You expect a safe ride home and that’s what should happen.”
In Hamilton, there is a 30-page taxi ordinance that was last replaced in 2006. The ordinance covers everything from how to start a cab company to allowed mileage rates to periodical safety checks to possible penalties if the regulations aren’t followed.
Rich Engle, director of Hamilton’s public works department and city engineer, said since cab companies have “direct contact” with residents, it’s imperative they all operate following the same safety guidelines.
“When you go on vacation, and you get in a taxi, you expect it to be safe,” Engle said.
Middletown police have said the city is in the process of updating its cab ordinance.
Those who have committed “violent offenses” or are driving under suspension have been eliminated from operating a cab during the application process that eventually has to be approved or denied by Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw, police have said.