But according to New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers founder Fernando Mateo, who accompanied Sailema to the station, the passenger beat the cabbie when he simply tried to awaken her after she dozed off in his car.
According to Mateo, Sailema saw that the woman had been drinking when she got into the taxi on Monday. Sailema tried to rouse her from her sleep at the end of the trip by grabbing the top of her blouse. She awoke, yelled "you're touching me" and started beating him.
The woman threw Sailema's car keys into the snow, and then they both got out of the cab. The passenger beat Sailema again and ran away with his car registration, insurance card and other papers, Mateo said.
Mateo said Sailema suffered bruises around his eyes and head. He described the passenger as "much bigger" than the cab driver.
Last year, Sailema was widely hailed as a hero for dropping off a supposedly abandoned baby at a firehouse. Days later, police said he had plotted with the baby's great-aunt to get rid of her. The baby's mother was a 14-year-old runaway. Those charges, including falsely reporting an incident, were dismissed.
NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS