Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Public safety

Uber driver charged with showing porn video to minors during Tampa ride

TAMPA A Tampa man is facing felony charges after police say he showed a pornographic video to three minors in his car during an Uber ride last fall.

Michael Paz Debesa, 43, was arrested April 16 and charged with three counts of showing obscene material to minors, records show.

The charges stem from a ride on Oct. 21, when Debesa picked up three minors from Amalie Arena shortly after 11 p.m., according to a search warrant obtained by Tampa police. An unidentified adult had arranged the ride for the minors, whose ages were not included in the warrant.

The Tampa Bay Lightning played a home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins that night, an arena event calendar shows.

During the ride, Debesa pulled his black Hyundai Elantra into the parking lot of the Publix at Bayshore Drive and Platt Street and accessed a video on his cellphone, which was secured in a dash-mounted holder, the warrant states. The content of the video is redacted from the warrant, but it played for about 20 seconds.

"The victims felt the suspect was waiting for them to respond in some way, but they remained quiet and just looked at each other in disbelief," Tampa police Officer Tobin Myers wrote in the warrant.

After the video played, Debesa dropped the passengers off at their destination. The passengers immediately told an adult at the home about the incident, and the adult called police.

"The actions outlined by police are deplorable and this individual was removed from the app when this was reported to us last October," an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement. Debesa also violated company policy that requires minor passengers to be accompanied by an adult.

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