Livery car driver busted in 1996 cold-case rape of a passenger in Queens

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A livery car driver was charged Thursday with raping one of his passengers a quarter-century ago in what the Queens D.A. calls the oldest sexual assault case ever prosecuted in the borough.

Danny Stewart, 58, raped a restaurant worker at gunpoint in 1996, and eluded justice until his DNA was entered into a state database last year, prosecutors said.

Stewart, who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, faces first-degree rape charges.

Stewart was driving a livery car in Queens on Sept. 15, 1996, when he picked up a 23-year-old woman who flagged him down at 4 a.m. on Parsons Blvd. and Archer Ave. in Jamaica after she finished back-to-back shifts at two restaurants, prosecutors allege.

Stewart refused to let the woman out of his car near her home — and then pulled into a dark parking lot nearby, prosecutors said.

He pulled out what looked like a gun, choked her and raped her, prosecutors allege.

She walked home, then went to a hospital, where evidence of the crime was collected with a rape kit, prosecutors said.

The crime occurred four years before the creation of the state’s DNA database in 2000.

Authorities eventually entered the evidence from the woman’s rape kit into the database. Late in 2020, when Stewart’s DNA was swabbed, it was matched to the victim, prosecutors said.

Officials wouldn’t say how Stewart’s DNA came to be collected — but they did say that before last year, it was “unattainable.”

“The victim in this case was just attempting to go home after work, but unfortunately met up with this alleged predator, who at long last faces prosecution for this crime,” Queens D.A. Melinda Katz said in a statement. “Justice is not always immediate, but a victim’s suffering deserves closure.”

Stewart’s lawyer, Edward Muccini, said the suspect “denies the allegations 100 percent.”

Muccini also contends that the five-year statute of limitations on first-degree rape in force at the time of the alleged crime still applies despite the fact that the Legislature has since lifted it entirely.

“It’s my belief — my opinion — that the case is going to be dismissed because of the statute of limitations,” Muccini said. “The Supreme Court has ruled that retroactively it doesn’t apply,” he added, referring to a 2003 case.

“All the witnesses are gone,” he added. “How does one defend themselves?”

But Katz’s office maintains that state law is on its side.

Stewart appeared in Queens Supreme Court Thursday and was ordered held on $300,000 bond or $200,000 cash bail.

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