Uber driver takes slightly altered plea deal in Boulder sex assault case

May 1—An Uber driver accused of sexually assaulting a woman he drove home in 2019 has taken a slightly altered plea deal and had his scheduled sentencing delayed as a result.

Mark Saunders, 42, initially pleaded guilty on March 8 to unlawful sexual contact and second-degree assault, both with a sexual factual basis.

But at a scheduled sentencing hearing on Friday, Boulder Deputy District Attorney M. Breck Roesch said attorneys agreed that instead of the unlawful sexual contact charge, Saunders would now be pleading guilty to a count of third-degree assault.

While both are Class 1 misdemeanors, the third-degree assault count does not carry the sexual factual basis. Had Saunders pleaded guilty to two counts with a sexual factual basis, Roesch said Saunders would have had to register as a sex offender for life, as opposed to just the length of his probation sentence.

Saunders' guilty plea on the second-degree assault, along with the agreement that he serve 10 years of sex offender intensive supervised probation on that count, remains.

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Similar to the unlawful sexual contact count, Saunders will be subject to sentencing by a judge on the third-degree assault count.

Roesch said the named victim in the case had been notified of the new plea deal.

Boulder District Judge Norma Sierra accepted the updated plea deal Friday, and rescheduled the sentencing hearing to May 28 so the probation department could make any necessary updates to Saunders' pre-sentence investigation and psychosexual evaluation.

Saunders, who attended the hearing virtually, will remain out on bond.

According to an arrest affidavit, a woman called Boulder police on Feb. 15, 2019, and said she believed she had been sexually assaulted. The woman told police she had been out drinking with a friend the previous night before calling an Uber driver — later identified by phone records as Saunders — to pick her up.

The woman said she did not remember most of the night except for flashes of Saunders being on top of her. She then woke up the next morning wearing only a T-shirt, and also told police her tampon had been removed.

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Police took the woman to get a sexual assault examination, which found the presence of male DNA that matched a sample Saunders had given to police in Florida after his arrest there in a case that was later dismissed.

The woman's roommate told police he remembers the woman came into his room that night "very out of it," and talking about a man in her room. When the roommate went out, he saw a man matching Saunders' description in the home.

Phone records show Saunders was the Uber driver assigned to the woman, and she also had a text from his number.

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In subsequent text messages between the woman and Saunders monitored by police, Saunders said the woman invited him in but they didn't "have intercourse or anything. We just made out and you got naked." Saunders also wrote he realized the woman was intoxicated, "but I didn't realize you were that intoxicated."

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