A former Lyft driver was acquitted of assault charges after confronting intoxicated passengers he had been transporting on an early morning in 2016, according to the San Francisco Public Defender's Office.
Vincent Perrault, 46, was acquitted of the charges on Tuesday connected to the ride he gave four passengers on Dec. 27, 2016.
According to the public defender's office, Perrault asked the passengers to leave his vehicle after becoming disruptive and telling him to "shut up and drive" around 2 a.m.
After asking the passengers to get out of the car, Perrault also got out to close an open door. That's when two of the men tried to confront Perrault, resulting in a shoving match and Perrault eventually punching both of them, his attorneys said.
"Mr. Perrault has no criminal history and was not looking for a fight when he asked the four passengers to exit his vehicle because it was unsafe for him to drive," Deputy Public Defender Matthew Sotorosen said in a statement. "The only reason he got out of the car was to close the door that they had left open, but three of them came after him in the street before he could do so."
The public defender's office said Sotorosen called an expert witness who testified that Perrault had had a "fear response" when the passengers approached him as he was attempting to close his open car door. One of the men that was punched suffered a herniated disk that required surgery.
Perrault was arrested and released with no charges filed, but they were filed nearly a year later in October 2017, at which point Perrault was living out of state. He was eventually taken into custody in May 2019.
Per the public defender's office, Sotorosen was able to get his client released pre-trial but he was placed on electronic monitoring, making it difficult for him to get work.
"We certainly take seriously the fact that someone was hurt, but the jury understood that Mr. Perrault had acted reasonably upon a survival instinct by defending himself from the perceived threat of being outnumbered and under attack," Sotorosen said.