Today’s news:

Taxi driver busted in rape attempt

The Elmhurst cab driver who was hailed as a hero a year ago for his role in dropping off a 6−month−old girl at a Corona firehouse turned himself in to police Friday after being accused of trying to rape a woman he picked up as a passenger in Astoria.

Klever Sailema, 46, picked up the 23−year−old woman around 2 a.m. in front of 37−18 28th Ave. March 2, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Queens district attorney’s office. He then drove her to an unknown location in Queens and allegedly assaulted her, police said.

He was arraigned Saturday on charges of attempted rape, assault, sexual abuse and forcible touching, the DA said. He was ordered held on $50,000 bail and his next court date was set for March 23, the DA said. If convicted, Sailema faces up to 15 years in prison, the DA said.

The victim said she woke up in the back seat with her pants and underwear pulled down and Sailema on top of her, the complaint said. She began screaming, punching and kicking before grabbing the vehicle’s registration papers containing Sailema’s name and jumping out of the cab, the complaint said.

The cabbie did not speak with reporters as he walked into the 114th Precinct Friday morning for booking before being taken to the 112th Precinct for a police lineup. But Fernando Mateo, president of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, said Sailema told him the woman was drunk, passed out and attacked him when he tried to wake her up.

She told Sailema to drive to Maspeth, and when they arrived in the neighborhood, Sailema turned to ask the woman for a specific address, Mateo said. When he reached behind to rouse her, she awoke with a start, smacked him and grabbed his keys from the ignition, Mateo said. The two struggled again when Sailema tried to retrieve his keys, Mateo said.

Sailema’s car did not have a video surveillance camera installed, Mateo said.

Kevin Faga, Sailema’s attorney, said his client sustained two black eyes and a bump on his head during the altercation with his passenger, who he said was larger than the 5−foot−6, 135−pound Sailema.

“Klever’s a well−mannered, soft−spoken man,” Faga said. “I find these accusations to be completely out of character.”

Sailema gained notoriety on Feb. 28, 2008, when he dropped off 6−month−old Daniella Cosme Perez at a Corona firehouse, telling authorities the baby was left in his cab by a man who jumped out and fled.

It was later revealed that Sailema was part of a scheme by the baby’s 27−year−old father, Carlos Rodas, to abandon the infant. Sailema was dating the sister of the baby’s mother at the time.

Sailema and the baby’s aunt, 21−year−old Maria Siavichay, initially faced charges of criminal facilitation, but a judge dismissed the charges last April on the condition that the cabbie not get into trouble in the next six months.

Daniella and her underage mother, Yelemer Cosme Perez, were both transferred last March by the city Administration for Children’s Services to the Human Services agency in Maryland, where they came from.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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