Cable Installer Convicted of Rape

An installer who falsified his identity to hide his history of sex crimes has been convicted of the 2003 rape of a developmentally disabled woman in Carmichael, Calif.

A jury in Sacramento Superior Court returned guilty verdicts Wednesday on seven counts related to the July 30, 2003, attack on the 20-year-old woman, including sexual crimes and kidnapping.

At the time of the attack, the suspect, Luis Saravia, was working in the Sacramento suburb for Links Communications, which had a contract to do field work for Comcast Corp.

According to a civil suit filed by the woman’s family, Links hired an outside firm to do a background check on Saravia when he was hired. But during the criminal trial, evidence was presented that Saravia used his own name but a different date of birth.

He also had apparently obtained an active Social Security number, which had been issued to a Mexican infant in the 1990s. That combination meant that the background checkers did not link Saravia with four felony convictions for sexual abuse and rape in this country.

Saravia was on a service call in the woman’s neighborhood on the day of the attack, and he apparently approached the woman as she took out the trash. The victim did not have the mental capacity to identify her attacker or provide incriminating testimony, but Saravia was photographed by a neighbor’s security camera, with his Comcast ID visible. He was also linked to the assault with the use of DNA testing.

The related civil case could raise troubling issues of corporate liability for contract employees. The case is still in the pretrial phase, but Comcast attorneys argued in pretrial motions that the cable company has no liability for the actions of the contractor and, therefore, Comcast should not be a target of the litigation.

James Fox, attorney for the woman, countered that municipal franchises give cable operators freedom to roam in people’s backyards and other public and private property. Because of their status as a public franchisee, operators have a nondelegatable responsibility for the people they send into the field, Fox argued.

Comcast has been unsuccessful to date with efforts to be dismissed as a target of the case alleging negligent hiring.

The company does not comment on ongoing legal matters. In the past, company representatives stressed that the installer was a subcontractor’s employee, and that the subcontractor retained an outside firm that did a background check on Saravia.

Fox said none of the data in the background check was more than two years old -- “a classic profile for someone who is creating a new identity.” A call to a Social Security Administration hotline would have verified that the name, date of birth and Social Security number did not match up, he added.

“I think we’ve shown corporate negligence here,” Fox said, adding that it is his goal to make Comcast accountable.

Both the civil trial and Saravia’s sentencing are pending.