US Marine avoids felony charges after choking Uber driver while traveling at 65 mph

A discharged US Marine in Virginia has escaped felony charges and jail time after putting an Uber driver in a choke hold as they drove 65 miles-per-hour down the Interstate.

23-year-old Maxwell Sweeney’s charges were dropped to misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor vandalism by Chesterfield County Circuit Judge T.J. Hauler. Sweeney was also ordered to pay $2,246 in restitution to driver Rene Ernesto Sanchez Espinozo, a former police officer and bodyguard from El Salvador.

While Sweeney had pleaded no contest to felony unlawful wounding and misdemeanor after the April 24 attack last year, his lawyer asked the judge to withhold a finding of guilt until the sentencing hearing last week.

According to, Hauler found Sweeney guilty of the lesser count after learning the Marine Corps had expelled Sweeney with an “Other than Honorable Discharge,” which the judge considered to be equal to a felony conviction.

Sweeney had been intoxicated during the incident, when he and a friend were given an Uber ride to Petersburg after they had left a bar in Richmond. When Sweeney asked to go to a different location, Espinozo notified Uber, leading the woman to decline further charges.

Espinozo then explained he would have to pull over and initiate a new transaction, leading Sweeney to put him in a chokehold. When the victim stopped the car, Sweeney ran out into the woods where he passed out.

Highly intoxicated during the time of the assault, Sweeney told State Police that he did not remember “anything” after 3:30PM.

Sweeney was given his “Other Than Honorable” discharge after his arrest but prior to his court date.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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