Woman sues Schwan’s Co. and ex-driver convicted of Mendocino County sex assault

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A woman is suing the frozen food delivery giant Schwan’s Co. that employed a driver convicted of sexually assaulting her in one of the corporation’s yellow refrigerator trucks by the side of Highway 101 near Hopland in Mendocino County where she was stranded with a flat tire.

The 22-year-old plaintiff filed the civil complaint in Sonoma County Superior Court claiming Schwan’s is responsible for an employee’s behavior and failed to uncover what she alleges is a history of improper behavior at previous jobs when it hired the driver, Alex Greene, said her attorney Alison Gokal.

The lawsuit also names Greene, 38, of Kelseyville, who was released from prison in September after serving a two-year prison term for forcing the woman into the cab of a company truck and kissing and groping her. He was convicted in Mendocino County and is currently on parole.

“Her goal is to prevent this from ever happening again,” Gokal said.

The woman, who grew up in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, said she initially trusted Greene when he pulled up behind her in a large box truck with the Schwan’s logo on March 7, 2016, and offered to change her tire. She spoke on condition of anonymity and is identified in court documents by the pseudonym Jane Doe. The Press Democrat typically does not identify victims of sexual assault who wish to remain anonymous.

“Who would think someone on the clock representing a business would do such a thing? He had a name tag on. He was uniformed,” said the woman, who now lives in Orange County and works as a fulltime nanny. “I felt much more comfortable with him than a random guy in a beat-up truck.”

In an interview Wednesday, Greene said he was wrongly accused and convicted, and he believes the CHP failed to properly investigate the allegations against him.

“That’s not what happened. I maintain my innocence,” Greene said. “And with the civil lawsuit, I’m being falsely accused again.”

The encounter occurred just before 11 a.m. March 7, 2016.

The woman’s Volvo got a flat tire after she hit a pothole heading north on Highway 101. She pulled over and parked at a turnout north of the green bridge south of Hopland.

Greene was heading south and made a U-turn when he saw the stranded driver. He changed the tire and made some sexual comments about her body and compared himself to the male character in the book “Fifty Shades of Grey,” according to a copy of the CHP’s report provided to the Press Democrat.

At that point, his account of what happened and the woman’s diverge.

Greene told investigators the flirtation was mutual. But the woman was simultaneously sending text messages to her mother about his comments. That made her mother call 911, the CHP reported.

The woman told investigators Greene carried her against her will to the cab of his truck where he forcibly kissed and fondled her, according to the CHP report. She told investigators he took her keys but she was eventually able to get them back and drive away.

Greene was detained later that day and arrested.

Greene’s “employment was terminated when we learned of the charges,” according to Schwan’s spokesman, Chuck Blomberg. Greene told investigators he delivered frozen foods to stores in Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties, according to the CHP report. Greene did not work for Schwan’s home-delivery business, Blomberg said.

“We take seriously our responsibility to uphold the trust we have built with the public,” Blomberg said in an email. “Our employees are held to high standards, and we conduct thorough background checks before hiring a candidate to one of our positions.”

He was convicted in June 2017 and is a registered sex offender listed on California’s Megan’s Law website.

The 13-page complaint was filed March 2, 2018, in Sonoma County Superior Court, a venue based on Schwan’s local base in Santa Rosa. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A trial date is set for June.

Gokal said they intend to show that Schwan’s failed to verify the employment history Greene listed on a job application document, and that Greene requested the company not contact a prior employer, which she said should have been cause for concern. According to Gokal, they are collecting sworn statements from multiple people who claim Greene had acted improperly toward women at other jobs.

Schwan’s needs “to be able to ensure the people that are out there in the public representing them are not there to harm people,” Gokal said.

“We believe that Schwan’s knew or definitely should have known he had a propensity to do these things.”

When asked about the plaintiff’s claims that he had problems at other jobs, Greene said he had no problems relevant to the plaintiff’s claims. Greene said he underwent a background check when hired by Schwan’s. He said the plaintiffs’ “theories and allegations are so far in left field.”

Schwan’s is headquartered in Marshall, Minnesota, about 150 miles west of Minneapolis. It is a multibillion-dollar private company and a top food marketer and delivery business to homes and markets in 48 states, with 3,600 delivery trucks and 400 locations, according to its website.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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