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Cabbie's Sex Felony Stirs Debate

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Several people in the cab business are upset that Peyton is driving. In a mostly suburban market such as Richmond, they say, parents often trust the cab driver to transport their teenage sons and daughters, and sometimes even small children.

Lt. Doug Perry, media relations officer for Henrico Police, says the county initially rejected Peyton's permit request in January 2003 because of the sexual offense but was forced to issue the permit anyhow. The county code prohibits permits to drivers who have been convicted of a felony within the "last three years," and Peyton's conviction at the time was nearly five years old. Taxi permits are overseen by the police department and must be renewed every year after a background check.

"There was nothing legally we could do about it," Perry says. In a letter to Peyton dated March 7, however, Major M.A. Batten informed Peyton that his recommendation to reinstate his cab license was based on the character witnesses who spoke on his behalf during an appeal hearing the day before.

"There is hesitation on my part to grant this permit, however, the willingness of your employer, Mr. [Constantin] Stroia, to give you this employment opportunity and his trust in your character is the deciding factor in this case," Batten wrote.

The subject of issuing taxicab permits to convicted sex offenders has never been addressed by the Capital Region Taxicab Advisory Board — but should, says Tommy Powers, president of Veterans Cab Association and the industry's designated representative to the board.

"If they are on the [state police] sex offender registry, they shouldn't be given a taxi-driver permit," Powers says. "It is something we definitely need to address."

For his part, Peyton says the charges that led to his conviction — for sexual penetration with an animate object — arose from a bitter divorce. And he says he passed a polygraph to prove it.

In a Dec. 6, 2001, letter to Peyton's parole officer, Domestic Violence Counselor James G. O'Quinn writes that his clinician did indeed administer a polygraph, which "indicated that Mr. Peyton was telling the truth about the offense of record." (In the letter, however, O'Quinn states that Peyton admitted to another incident that involved looking at a sleeping child's "pubic area.")

"People need to understand that Henrico County, which was the county that convicted me, they checked all of that out, they granted the permit back," Peyton says. "They are the ones in the best position to make the best determination."

Peyton says he rarely transports children. "Very seldom do we have children in the cab without parents," he says. — Scott Bass



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