Ethics Hero: Uber Driver Keith Avila


Outside a house in Sacramento, California, two women got into Uber driver Keith Avila’s car with a girl who looked to him like she was just 12, wearing a short skirt.  One of them asked Avila to turn up the music as his car approached their destination, a Holiday Inn in Elk Grove. But Avila could still hear them.

“They were describing what they were going to do when they get there: ‘Check for guns. Get the money before you start touching up on the guy,’” Avila said on Facebook Live, minutes after he dropped off the passengers and had called police to report that the women seemed to be selling a child for sex. Though the girl was 16 and not 12, she was being sold for sex at the Holiday Inn.  Avila was correct.

Police arrested Destiny Pettway, 25, and Maria Westley, 31, on charges of pimping and threatening a minor, and also arrested Disney Vang, 20, whom they “determined…had been involved in unlawful sexual activity with the victim.”

“I told police, ‘If you don’t come, I’m going to go in there myself and take pictures of these guys,’ ” Avila wrote on Facebook. “That’s not a good life, to be under the control of another human being for the purpose of sex trafficking.”

Ethics Alarms has discussed the ethical obligation of citizens to do what Avila did, which falls under many ethics duties: the duty of citizenship, the duty to report crime, the duty to oppose evil, the duty to rescue, the duty to protect children, the duty to fix the problem, and others. It would have been the easiest and most risk-free course for the driver to avoid investigating and learning what might have made him feel the need to get involved, or to refuse to take action even after his suspicions that something wrong was underway had been confirmed.

Instead, he did what ethical citizens are supposed to do, should be raised to do, must be encouraged by the culture to do, but all too often do not.

He saw a wrongful act and a human being in peril, and took timely action.



34 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Uber Driver Keith Avila

  1. I say bravo too; his moral duty outweighed the negative possibilities, he’s a courageous man!

    Oh wait, I just remembered something Spartan said October 14, 2016 at 11:22 am, “I do not have any duty to confront. People have a duty not to commit assault.”; are we all wrong on this one too Spartan? From what Spartan said before, isn’t also clear in this case that he had no duty of citizenship, no duty to report crime, no duty to oppose evil, no duty to rescue, no duty to protect children, no duty to fix the problem; people have a duty not to sell children for sex, this was not his duty – or something along those lines.

    I wonder if I’ll be told to put my emotion and self-righteousness in check again?

    • I would throw myself on a grenade for a child. You took everything I said out of context. (I just deleted a string of profanities, because I’m trying to be nice right now.)

      • Spartan said, “I would throw myself on a grenade for a child.”

        That good to know.

        Spartan said, “You took everything I said out of context.”

        Oh do tell…

        Spartan said, “I just deleted a string of profanities, because I’m trying to be nice right now.”

        If you really had been trying to be nice you wouldn’t have posted that sentence; but thanks for creating the mindseye visual reference to that “string of profanities”. Be honest, you really didn’t think much about that sentence before you posted it, did you. 😉

        • Technically, Avila did not “confront”, i.e. meet (someone or something) face to face with hostile or argumentative intent. Wrong excuse for a ‘gotcha.’

            • Zoltar, you are giving the word your own denotation. Not a problem; if you wish to be imprecise, have at it. But that’s not what Spartan said — and said again at the post of December 31 11:29 which amounts to the definition as I gave it above. She does not have a duty to confront. I do not either. Whether I might act to confront would depend entirely on the situation; given Avila’s option I would do, and have done, the same thing. If you have a duty, you gave it to yourself, and you exercise it at your own foolish risk instead of informing the authorities.

              And I’m sure Spartan would confront if that were the only option, for instance, to protect her children. No one is arguing that Avila did the right thing.

              Here’s your “duty” scenario. If you want to get out of your cab and let the women know you are on to them and either punch out both of them and grab the young one … What? Did you think they would just stand there listening to you? … then guess who gets arrested, for assault if nothing else? Oh, and get a ticket, have the cab towed while you’re trying to talk your way out, and lose a day’s fares if not your job. Your word against theirs could mean lawyers’ fees as well, especially if they were smart enough to turn the tables and say you were trying to get the girl for yourself — and other bad scenarios, none of which are going to turn out as well as having the police do their jobs armed with your information. Be a man, swallow the false pride, and do the right thing, Z!

    • The driver didn’t really “confront” though. He still dropped the kid off at the hotel to be pimped out. He called the police afterwards. It was a low-risk move on his part, though I’m glad he did it.

      • It was the right and best move. In that specific situation, if you confront, the women just deny everything, cancel their plans, don’t get caught, and the john doesn’t get caught either. Then the victim goes on to be trafficked another day.

        • It was the right and best move. In that specific situation, if you confront, the women just deny everything, cancel their plans, don’t get caught, and the john doesn’t get caught either. Then the victim goes on to be trafficked another day.

          *blinks slowly* Hmmm, it’s almost as if you are saying different situations call for different responses. That can’t be.

          • The original blog post doesn’t say anything about “confronting” at all. And Zoltar was pretty clear about making the distinction too. If you don’t think that anyone ever has a duty to confront, and that responsibility for everything lies with the guilty party and not with bystanders, and Sparta apparently implied, then this man also had no duty to get involved, whether or not he “confronted.” It’s hard to see what you’re point is, then, other than to throw shade.

            • Oh, I’m totally throwing shade, though not really at you. Sometimes resisting physically is very foolish, discretion really is the better part of valor, and those that think that women have a “duty to confront” their assaulters are full of it. Especially those that proclaim it is nearly physically impossible to be “grabbed by the pussy” on hand, and yet wonder why women are very hesitant to report their assault (who will almost certainly be someone the woman and her friends/family/coworkers know) to the police.

              • Let’s see—this is completely irrelevant to the post, and 99 7/8 percent baloney besides. You endorse an ideology that too frequently extols the surrender of all personal responsibility, and relies on government power and reach, increasingly and eventually totally—all the better to train submissive weenies and perpetual victims. Naturally, the basic proven principle that we all have a duty to take care of ourselves and resist oppression, as well as try to assist others, is somehow offensive, so we get tangents like this, somehow involving Donald Trump trashtalk. Incredible.

              • You know, this really isn’t that hard Jack, Zoltar, and any other men who do not understand this. As a woman, I am likely to submit to a rapist who has a gun or knife at my throat. Why? Because it is more important that I live, even if I have to live with my image being tarnished in your eyes because I didn’t die trying to protect my virtue. But if a child is in the picture? Hell yes, I would sacrifice myself trying to protect that kid — even if it meant that I would die. That is just the way most women (and I assume men) are wired.

                Further, we, as women, aren’t always going to report the Trumps, Cosbys, etc. of the world because we know that no good comes of it. We are the ones that are going to lose our jobs. We are the ones who will be trashed by the media. We are the ones who will have our conduct questioned by strangers on ethics blogs. So no, we aren’t going to do that. We are going to protect our reputations, our self-image, and sometimes our lives.

                You know how we win? We survive. We go on to new and better jobs. We leave abusive boyfriends or husbands and forge better lives for ourselves. And before you start citing duties that we have to report these assholes who are attacking us, perhaps your oxygen would be better spent reducating and rewiring the assholes in the first place instead of blaming the victims.

                I have a great aunt who died due to domestic violence. My great-uncle threw her down the stairs one night. The police did nothing. My mom lived for a time with an abusive uncle. I have been the victim of abuse (many years ago) and have been the target of blatant sexual harassment. Who would you lay the most blame in these situations? The victim? In this story, you are praising the efforts of a man who had the guts to call 911 after letting a child (who he thought was much younger!) walk into a hotel room to be raped. Big effing deal. So he called the police from the sanctuary of his car after the big bad female pimps left. Good for him for doing this, but this truly falls under the “least you can do” column. I mean, you don’t even have to unlock your phone to dial 911 — it’s one number. Good for him for pushing that little emergency button on his pone. Personally? I would not have let that child walk into that room. I wonder if she was raped (again) before the police arrived.

                • Spartan said, “I am likely to submit to a rapist who has a gun or knife at my throat.”

                  We’ve been here before and I’m not going there again. As I’ve said before, fighting back or not fighting back is your choice and all choices have consequences.

                  Spartan said, “…even if I have to live with my image being tarnished in your eyes because I didn’t die trying to protect my virtue.”

                  Your hyperbole is bull shit!

                  Spartan said, “And before you start citing duties that we have to report these assholes who are attacking us, perhaps your oxygen would be better spent reeducating and rewiring the assholes in the first place instead of blaming the victims.”

                  That’s an illogical emotional argument.

                  I just love how you, and others like you, callously toss aside your civic duties and resort to this “blaming the victims” false shaming crap; it’s nothing but psychologically projecting your own unethical behavior (lack of doing your civic duty) on others. Civic duty to report violent illegal activity is crucial in a civil society, ignoring those duties can, and does, have serious consequences to both the original victim(s) and to future possible victims. No one is blaming you for being a victim, no one is blaming you for anything, what we are saying is you’re unethically ignoring your civic duty to report the violent criminal activity and that choice, like all other choices, has consequences that you refuse to accept.

                  Spartan why would any of these assholes want to reeducate themselves if there are no consequences to their actions, and no consequences is exactly what happens when victims refuse to report violent abusers and press charges. Please tell us exactly how we as a society are supposed to know who to punish, reeducate or rewire if victims don’t report these assholes? You want to dump all the responsibility on others, falsely shame others with your faux outrage “blaming the victim” trash, and tell us that we are all wrong for not fixing the assholes that you are unwilling to report. These violent assholes will repeat their crimes until they are figuratively nailed on their cross for them and until you accept your civic duty to report and press charges against these violent offenders your lack of action has the genuine possibility of endangering others and the problem will persist; that Spartan is NOT blaming victims, as you so callously spewed with your faux outrage hyperbole, that’s civic duty and the responsibility of a civil people.

                  Spartan, the real point here is that the police, the legal system, the re-educators, the masters of psychological rewiring can’t do a damn thing to “fix” any of these violent assholes until people like you report them. You demand others take on their civic duty to fix these assholes by “reeducating and rewiring” them, but you’re unwilling to do your own civic duty to report them so society knows who to fix; it’s emotional, it’s illogical, and it’s a double standard.

                  Please understand that I have never, and will never blame a victim of violent abuse for being a victim; however, I will always say that choices have consequences and individuals must accept the consequences of their own choices.

                  Yes, I’m being hard on you again.

                  • “an’t do a damn thing to “fix” any of these violent assholes until people like you report them.”

                    Yup, and then it’s a really, really iffy proposition that they can be rewired and rendered inert. When I was locked up, I was in a minimal security “outside clearance” dorm towards the end of my time-out (“assault” weapon possession). There was this harmless little bald man named Mike. This guy always had a smile on his face, always talking about his recovery, God, and the great things he had planned for his life. I called him Uncle Fester. I used to jog around the yard, and he’d always let me use his Walkman for that. I’d have to insist that he let me replace his batteries. Just an all-around good-natured, harmless-looking guy that would have been the last of the 72 guys in there you’d suspect of going on to commit one of the most horrible, gruesome home-invasions in recent history. Mike Hayes. I couldn’t even bring myself to read the details of this for over a year. Anyway, point being, this guy had everyone hoodwinked, including himself I think. I believe he was sincere, and despite all of his and the DOC’s efforts, well, this happened. So much for rehabilitation. Sometimes it really is a fool’s errand.

      • Deery said, “He still dropped the kid off at the hotel to be pimped out. He called the police afterwards.”

        This driver did the right thing! He did not know for sure if what was being said was in fact what was about to happen or if it was some sophomoric gag by a bunch of inciteful morons. By reporting what he heard to the authorities it put the system in motion to directly address the actual illegal act, if in fact there was one in progress.

        Deery said, “The driver didn’t really “confront” though.”, “It was a low-risk move on his part…”

        That’s not necessarily true.

        If you don’t think this was a method of “confrontation” then you haven’t dealt with vengeful criminals when they think they know who turned them in, and you can be assured that those people know exactly who turned them in this time. This driver could have allowed the negative possibilities of reporting this to overcome his moral duty and just driven off, but he chose to take the chance and risk those negative possibilities and do his duty; this was an act of courage whether you think it was or not, it just wasn’t an act of courage under “direct fire”. There are lots of courageous acts that don’t involve directly facing down a criminal.

  2. Normally I don’t like people sticking their noses in others’ business (most people know what they are doing, and I have seen meddling go wrong many times), but in this case there were more than enough red flags to justify taking action. Trafficking a child? Ee-YUCCH!

  3. They’re lucky I wasn’t the driver. Making a 10-year-old a sex slave? I might have just broke all their necks, then dropped the girl off with child protective services and offered to give the girl a real home with us. Of course, I’d have to figure out how to keep the child from seeing that; I wouldn’t be doing her any favors traumatizing her with that.

    • joed68 said, “I might have just broke all their necks…”

      That was “probably” just hyperbole; but, if you would have done that you would have gone to jail for life, or worse – and rightfully so. We are not a country that looks favorably at vigilantism.

      joed68 said, “and offered to give the girl a real home with us.”

      I’m sure social services would give a young lady to a family where the future Dad had just murdered some people.

      I spent some long years in the Army and have immediate family members who are currently or have been Marines, I know the rhetoric well and sometimes this kinda shit just flows out of those experienced military loose lips; that doesn’t make “threats” right or acceptable, what it does do is make you a prime suspect when something terrible happens and you’re close in some way. A friendly voice of experience; cool it a bit, those around you will appreciate it.

      Happy New Year!!!

      • Please don’t feed the trolls!

        Seriously, though. Of course it was hyperbole. I wouldn’t have broken ALL those necks. the child victim (I don’t know why I thought she was 10, but to me, 10 is definitely worse than 16, though both bad) is the innocent party in all this. 🙂

        Also, no one was directly threatened. Note the past-tense of “I might have”, though I get what you’re saying. In the interest of clarity, I’ll say this: would I actually kill someone who didn’t harm MY children? Very unlikely. Would I think it wasn’t wrong if I did? Nope, not at all, though I can’t imagine “or worse” being rightfully so. Life would be worse than “or worse” anyway. I’d really like to think I’d have the presence of mind to think it all through and do things properly, though I suppose, like most people, my reaction would depend on the scene my eyes were confronted with. Something about sexually harming children just, I don’t know, chafes me.

  4. Hat’s off to Avila for protecting these idiot girls from their own stupidity. Don’t they realize that they could have wound up with vd or worse? Hopefully the Johns involved will get perv cards.

  5. Bravo indeed. How refreshing to hear this rather than those acting like police on non crimes and posting their stupid videos.

    Thank you.

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