Halifax cabbie accused of sexual assault breaks down on stand: "She wasn't in my car"
Houssen Milad is facing a charge of sexually assaulting a 26-year-old Halifax woman last June.
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A former Halifax cab driver said he’d never seen the woman accusing him of sexual assault before his day in court.
Houssen Milad, 46, appeared in Halifax provincial court Monday on a sexual assault charge related to an alleged incident in the early hours of June 4, 2016, when the complainant said the Yellow Cab driver taking her home kissed her head and told her she was cute before groping her buttocks.
“Never. She wasn’t in my car,” Milad said on the stand with the help of an Arabic interpreter, who translated for him throughout the trial.
When Milad took the stand Monday afternoon, defence lawyer Tom Singleton began by asking him about where he lives in Halifax with his family (a wife and three sons), when Milad began crying and breathing in gasps. He took a tissue to wipe his eyes, taking a few seconds to gather his breath.
Milad said he is currently an electrical engineering PhD student at Dalhousie University, as well as a pizza delivery driver, and has lived in Halifax for nearly 12 years since coming from Libya.
He said he began working at Yellow Cab in February 2016, and had been there about four months before charges were laid in this case.
HRM confirmed Milad’s taxi license is under suspension pending a review following the outcome of this trial. He has not appealed the suspension.
Judge Gregory Lenehan is hearing the trial, who acquitted former cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi of sexual assault this March. That decision is being appealed by the Crown, and Chief Judge Alan Tufts is also overseeing a complaint process around Lenehan professionally.
In the courthouse hallways Monday, Milad wore sunglasses and a hat and carried a backpack. He shielded his face with the bag multiple times, at one point raising it into the cameras of journalists taking his photo.
Earlier in the day, the court heard testimony from the 26-year-old complainant for about three hours. She said the night of June 3 began with her meeting friends at a party in downtown Halifax, where she didn’t drink any alcohol having just come from work. A group then went to the Alehouse around 11:45 p.m. for a couple hours, where she said she had three gin and waters.
The woman said the group headed down Argyle Street with the original plan of meeting her friend’s boyfriend and taking a taxi home together. However, the woman said once she flagged a cab down outside the Subway on Argyle Street around 1:30 a.m. and got in the front seat, expecting at least one friend to follow behind her, they instead decided to head into The Argyle bar so she told the driver she was the only passenger, and gave him her Armdale area address.
The ride began with “general chit chat,” the woman said, where she learned he was from Libya, his name was Houssen, and was told he was in his late thirties. When the driver asked who she had been out with that night, she said she showed him a group photo of herself and some female friends at the bar on her phone as they were passing the Halifax Common.
The driver made a comment about how the complainant was the “cutest one” of the group, which she said she disagreed with but added “thanks,” and changed the topic.
As the driver turned up Herring Cove Road and they were nearing her address, the woman said he pulled her head towards him and kissed the top of her head, at which she said she immediately felt uncomfortable and tensed up, pulling her head back.
The woman said at the time her thoughts went to making a complaint to Yellow Cab, and asked for the driver’s card under the pretense of booking him for further rides “because I didn’t want to want to raise suspicion.” She turned the card over to police, which was entered into court as evidence and Milad confirmed was his card. When they pulled up outside her home, the driver gave her his card and made other flirtatious comments about her being attractive, she said, then handed her the debit machine.
While paying, the woman said the driver reached across her shoulders, brought his hand down her back, cupped her right buttocks over her pants and squeezed it, adding “it was a grope.” It happened very quickly, she said, describing it as a “sneak attack.”
“Externally, I did not react much. I was … slightly in shock, you can’t believe it just happened,” she said.
“I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know what would happen if I were to .. say anything or fight back.”
She finished paying (including roughly 20 per cent tip, which she said she always does in cabs) and went into her house where she locked and bolted the door.
A couple days later, the woman said she called police and an officer came to take her statement. She was then interviewed in person by an officer in the sex assault unit of Halifax Regional Police, who also testified in court.
Crown attorney Robert Kennedy also called Yellow Cab general manager Majid Latif as a witness, who detailed the GPS tracking system in their cabs, and confirmed he knew Milad drove a cab with the roof light 105 that had 33 fare logs that night, including one where someone was picked up downtown and ended at a street with a similar name close to the complainant’s street.
During Milad’s cross-examination, Kennedy said suggested Milad turned off the meter at the nearby street before continuing on to drop off the complainant, which Milad denied and said “no,” adding he didn’t drop anyone off on her street that night.
Milad also said he couldn’t remember specific people he picked up from the Argyle Street area that night because he made many trips back and forth to the area.
When Kennedy asked how the complainant had his business card, Milad said “I don’t know,” adding he had given out at least 300 cards with his email and phone number to other passengers, but no other drivers.
Kennedy then asked whether Milad had told any passenger that night he was younger than he really was, to which Milad said “I do not lie.”
Both Crown and defence are set to present closing arguments on Tuesday morning.
Milad was also facing a sexual assault charge related to a July 9, 2016 incident where the complainant said she had been touched in a sexual manner and kissed by a cab driver without her consent.
Last week, the Crown offered no evidence in that case since the complainant had moved to England and didn’t want to testify. Judge Lenehan then dismissed the charge.