ONEONTA _ A registered sex offender allegedly fondled a 23-year-old woman inside a West Street home last month while working as a subcontractor for Time Warner Cable.

Joseph J. Devine, 36, of Endicott, turned himself in to city police Wednesday and was charged with first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, and second-degree unlawful imprisonment, a misdemeanor.

Devine, a registered sex offender, was checking a cable connection at the home at about 10 a.m. June 20 when he physically restrained the woman in order to submit her to sexual contact, Lt. Dennis Nayor of the Oneonta Police Department said Wednesday.

The woman reported the alleged sexual assault that day.

State penal law defines sexual contact as any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire.

Devine is an employee of Sure Connect in Kirkwood and was not an employee of Time Warner, said David Whalen, vice president of public and governmental affairs at Time Warner Cable of Central New York.

"He works for a company that does subcontracting work for Time Warner," Whalen said Wednesday. "We conduct thorough background checks on all our employees."

Time Warner also requires the companies it contracts with to conduct background checks, he said.

Devine was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse in 2001 in Broome County, according to state Department of Correctional Services records.

He was sentenced to 21/2 years in state prison, the records indicate.

"It would be improper for me to comment on someone who works for another company," Whalen said when asked if Time Warner or Sure Connect knew of Devine's conviction.

Don Crouch, who a Sure Connect employee said is the co-president and general manager of the Kirkwood-based company, did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

The employee said Crouch had received the message left for him by The Daily Star, which included specific information about the charges faced by Devine.

Devine is listed by the state Division of Criminal Justice as a Level 1 sex offender _ those deemed in court to be the least likely to re-offend.

Unlike Level 2 and Level 3 offenders, state law limits the amount of information that can be released to the public on Level 1 sex offenders.

During the investigation, Oneonta detectives were in contact with Devine, and he turned himself in, accompanied by his attorney, after an arrest warrant was issued by Oneonta City Court, Nayor said.

Devine's attorney is listed only as D. Butler in court records and could not be reached by phone for comment.

Devine was arraigned in city court and was released on $15,000 bail. He is to reappear July 22, court officials said.

First-degree sexual assault is a class D felony that carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Second-degree unlawful imprisonment is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of a year in jail.

Nayor said the alleged sexual assault appears to be an isolated incident.

However, he said, Oneonta residents should be alert while workers are in their homes. People should also take care not to leave cash or other small, valuable items out in the open, he said, and personal information should not be given out.

Whalen said he hopes this incident does not reflect on the employees of Time Warner, whom he said have a great reputation across the state.

"Obviously, we, as a company, certainly understand the seriousness of this," Whalen said.

Officials with the Broome County District Attorney's Office did not immediately return a call inquiring about the circumstances of Devine's conviction.

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