Lawrence man accused of groping Uber driver gets probation, 25 years on sex offender registry

photo by: Mike Yoder

The Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St.

A man accused of repeatedly and forcibly grabbing his Uber driver’s genitals during a frightening ride through Lawrence has been sentenced in connection with the incident.

Landon J. Roberson, 23, of Lawrence, was granted two years on probation but must register as a sex offender for 25 years, according to Cheryl Wright Kunard, assistant to District Attorney Charles Branson.

Roberson’s sentencing hearing was Friday before Douglas County District Court Judge Peggy Kittel. Roberson’s underlying sentence, which he could be ordered to serve if he fails at probation, is a year in prison, Wright Kunard said.

Roberson pleaded no contest in July to attempted aggravated sexual battery, a felony. His initial higher-severity charge, aggravated sexual battery, was dropped in the plea agreement.

The incident happened in the early morning of March 18, 2017, near the end of the Uber driver’s St. Patrick’s Day shift.

photo by: Kansas Bureau of Investigation

Landon J. Roberson

The Uber driver, a 30-year-old man, told police he’d been sent to pick up someone named Landon at the Lawrence Community Shelter, 3655 E. 25th St. Initially he couldn’t find the man but eventually located him nearby under an overpass on Kansas Highway 10.

According to a police affidavit in the case, the driver further told investigators:

The passenger sat in the front seat and asked to be taken to a location out in the country, but when the driver refused asked to be taken to Tennessee Street instead.

Shortly after getting in the car the passenger grabbed the driver’s crotch. On the trip through Lawrence, the passenger continued to grab the driver’s genitals and tried to put his hand in his pants about a dozen times.

Each time the driver told him to stop, the passenger became agitated and angry, which made the driver fear for his life “because he did not know what Landon would do to him or what Landon was capable of doing.”

The driver dropped the passenger off near 11th and Massachusetts streets and reported the incident to police later that day.

In the three hours prior to the incident, Roberson had been booked into the jail — which is next to the shelter — on an unrelated warrant, released, then called for the Uber. He was arrested in the Uber case in May 2017.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd