George Catalano, 36, turned himself in Thursday morning and is charged with assault and reckless endangerment.
He was arraigned Thursday night and is due back in court July 10.
36-year-old George Catalano arraigned tonight and released (supervised) after being charged with assault and reckless endangerment for pummeling Lyft driver while he was driving. Due back in court July 10. pic.twitter.com/YSq6kGjO2d— CeFaan Kim (@CeFaanKim) May 31, 2019
The driver, 36-year-old Eduardo Madiedo, spoke to Eyewitness News about the harrowing ordeal, which happened around 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 23, on 33rd Street in Woodside.
Authorities say Madiedo became involved in a dispute with a man and a woman in the backseat after the male passenger, who addressed the woman as his mother, wanted to go to Mount Sinai Hospital in Long Island City and demanded traffic laws be broken to get there.
He then became agitated and impatient, Madiedo said, and dashcam video shows the crazed and shirtless passenger pummeling him with punches while he is behind the wheel and driving.
"I respectfully asked them not to disrespect me, or I would end the ride," he said. "I guess that ticked him off, and he just started all of the sudden swinging at me and punching me in the back of the head. I did my best to block it, the hits that he was throwing at me, and trying not to crash my car or hurt anybody on the street. I wear glasses, and when he punched me, he knocked my glasses off. So I was squinting and just trying to get out of a really difficult situation."
The man then tried to climb into the front seat before eventually exiting the vehicle.
Madiedo was not seriously hurt, but the incident left him bruised and angry. Now, he's hoping the arrest means he can begin to move forward.
"It truly means so much to me," he said. "Maybe I can start getting closure now."
He is relieved his alleged assailant is finally in custody as he continues to recover from the incident.
"Physically I still have pain on the right side of my head," said Madiedo. "When I sleep or when I kinda turn that way I can feel it. Emotionally, a lot of anxiety."
Madiedo has been a Lyft driver for barely a year and he says he invested a lot of money to become a ride-share driver.
But he said he won't do it anymore, and doesn't know what he'll do next.
A Lyft spokesperson issued the following statement: "Safety is fundamental to Lyft and the behavior described is unacceptable. There is no place for violence of any kind in our community. We have permanently banned the passenger and have reached out to the driver to offer our support. We stand ready to assist law enforcement with their investigation."
Catalano has eight prior arrests, including four for assault.
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