Sacramento woman remembers her terrifying night in an Uber ride
The three women who say they were held captive by an Uber driver on a harrowing drive through Sacramento in June asked a judge to keep the Rancho Cordova man behind bars at a Thursday bail hearing.
“We had to jump out of his car. He told us we were all going to die,” a visibly shaken Angela O’Neil told Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet as she stood side by side with friends Katherine Vallaire and Theadora Fuerstenberg.
Sweet ordered Mark Filanov, 36, to remain in custody Thursday, leaving his bail at $375,000 and setting a preliminary examination for Oct. 11. Filanov faces as many as 11 years in prison if convicted on the charges.
Filanov has been held in Sacramento County custody since his August arrest on suspicion of kidnapping and threatening the lives of the three friends who had hailed the ride service from a book club evening at a home in the Arden Arcade to their homes in Oak Park.
“I have to protect the society and the community that we’re all a part of,” Sweet told Filanov, who looked out from behind the courtroom’s holding cell. “I’m not prepared to reduce bail or release you. You are looking at a state prison sentence. I don’t think it benefits you or the interest of justice to release you.”
Sweet’s decision came against the wishes of Filanov’s attorney and family members who said the frightening incident was the product of a mental break and that Filanov was not a threat.
Sacramento County deputy public defender Joshua Kurtz argued that Filanov, an artist and photographer with no prior criminal record “wouldn’t be a criminal but for his mental health issues.”
The women in statements to Sacramento County Sheriff’s detectives had recounted a terror-filled ride onto Sacramento freeways in the back of Filanov’s Nissan Altima. They said Filanov drove at speeds above 80 miles per hour, tailgated vehicles and abruptly stopped behind yet others before accelerating again as the women pleaded for him to stop the car and let them out.
One of the women called 911 while another cried, the statements read. The three finally leapt from the car at a red light on Martin Luther King Boulevard.
“We’re all very scared. I am terrified of him being out,” said Theadora Fuerstenberg, who told Sweet that Filanov had stalked her at her home after the Uber incident. “I don’t care if he has a mental disability. He meant it when he told us we were going to die. I don’t want him to get out.”
Outside the courtroom, family members were eager to tell of a different Filanov. They shared videos of Filanov in happier times, dancing with an aunt, smiling in family photos. They said Filanov’s break behind the wheel was the product of paranoid thoughts after a violent attack four years ago that left him with what his attorney described as a “significant” head injury.
“This was a break – a psychotic break,” Jim Brunello, Filanov’s uncle and a family spokesman, said after the hearing, saying Sweet’s decision not to reduce bail will be “destructive for the family.”
“This is punitive. He’ll get out, but at a cost to the family,” Brunello said. “It takes away the resources that can be used to help him.”