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Ex-St. Peters Ride-Share Driver Sentenced to 13 Years for Kidnapping and Assaulting Passenger

A former driver for the ride-share company Lyft, who previously declined a plea agreement in a sexual assault case, received a 13-year prison sentence on Tuesday.

Larry Ward, 57, admitted guilt to charges of first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sexual assault of a woman who had booked a ride home from a bachelorette party at a downtown bar on June 22, 2019.

Judge Scott Millikan of the St. Louis City Circuit Court handed down a five-year sentence for the kidnapping and eight years for the sexual assault. The potential sentence for sexual assault ranged from five years to life (30 years), and up to 15 years for kidnapping. Judge Millikan did not specify his reasoning for the 13-year sentence, which includes a year’s credit for time already served, although it was similar to the plea deal Ward had rejected in April.

Bob Taaffe, Ward’s attorney, mentioned that his client chose a blind plea on what was to be the first day of his trial, to prevent further distress to the victim.

The evidence against Ward encompassed a forensic examination of the victim, her cell phone data pinpointing the pickup location and duration of the $9.02 ride, along with Ward’s photo on the ride receipt.

The judge showed visible emotion after hearing the victim’s impact statement, commending her strength and courage.

Cristen Giangarra, 33, the victim, has publicly discussed her ordeal. She recounted a supposed six-minute ride that became a 51-minute nightmare, involving her awakening to find Ward on top of her.

Giangarra expressed her feelings in court, highlighting the irreversible impact of the attack on her life, including the use of anti-seizure medication for panic attacks and dental damage due to nighttime teeth grinding. She spoke of the pervasive shadow of the attack in her daily life and the trauma of the subsequent medical examination.

Ward offered no statement during sentencing. A woman accompanying him left the courtroom in distress following the verdict.

Previously, Ward had been offered a 12-year plea deal by the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office, which he declined shortly before the scheduled hearing.

Ward wrote to Judge Millikan in September, explaining his decision not to take the deal and detailing personal hardships, including the inability to visit family due to GPS monitoring restrictions.

Judge Millikan revoked Ward’s bond in August, citing stress on Ward’s family, including his wife and 14 children.

Giangarra, now residing out of state, was prepared to testify at the hearing.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore remarked on the case, praising the prosecution team and the support provided to the victim.

Lyft’s legal representatives were present at the sentencing. Giangarra is suing Lyft, alleging negligent background checks by the company and claiming that prior checks revealed Ward’s criminal history.

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