Ex-prison warden faces trial over inmate abuse allegations

The previous warden of an abuse-plagued federal ladies’s jail often known as the “rape membership” goes on trial Monday, accused of molesting inmates and forcing them to pose bare of their cells.

Ray J. Garcia, who retired after the FBI discovered nude images of inmates on his government-issued cellphone final yr, is amongst 5 employees charged with abusing inmates on the federal correctional establishment in Dublin, California, and the primary to go to trial.

Opening statements and the primary witnesses are anticipated Monday in federal courtroom in Oakland. Garcia, 55, has pleaded not responsible. If convicted, he would withstand 15 years in jail.

An Related Press investigation in February revealed a tradition of abuse and cover-up that had persevered for years on the jail, about 21 miles (34 kilometers) east of Oakland. That reporting led to elevated scrutiny from Congress and pledges from the federal Bureau of Prisons that it might repair issues and alter the tradition on the jail.

Garcia is charged with abusing three inmates between December 2019 and July 2021, however jurors might hear from as many as six ladies who say he groped them and informed them to pose bare or in provocative clothes. U.S. District Decide Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers mentioned prosecutors can name three further accusers as witnesses, despite the fact that their allegations will not be a part of his indictment.

Garcia’s lawyer has repeatedly declined to remark, saying he would reply to the fees “solely by the courtroom course of.” Courtroom filings point out the protection plans to argue that Garcia took photos of 1 inmate as a result of he wished documentation that she was breaching coverage by standing round bare.

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The case, with shades of #MeToo behind bars, can be prone to put a highlight on the Bureau of Prisons, calling into query its dealing with of sexual abuse complaints from inmates towards employees and the vetting course of for the folks it chooses to run its prisons.

Garcia was promoted from affiliate warden to warden in November 2020 whereas he was nonetheless abusing inmates, prosecutors say. The Bureau of Prisons has mentioned it didn’t discover out in regards to the abuse till later. Garcia is the highest-ranking federal jail official arrested in additional than 10 years.

The company’s new director, Colette Peters, has reiterated the company’s zero-tolerance coverage for employees sexual misconduct and has referred to as for harsher punishment for employees who commit abuse. However as abuse raged at Dublin, the method for reporting it was inherently damaged.

Garcia was in command of employees and inmate coaching on reporting abuse and complying with the federal Jail Rape Elimination Act on the similar time he was committing abuse, prosecutors say, and a few inmates say they had been despatched to solitary confinement or different prisons for accusing workers of abuse.

Prosecutors say Garcia tried to maintain his victims quiet with guarantees that he’d assist them get early launch. He allegedly informed one sufferer he was “shut mates” with the jail official liable for investigating employees misconduct and couldn’t be fired. In response to an indictment, he mentioned he favored to cavort with inmates as a result of, given their lack of energy, they couldn’t “spoil him.”

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Garcia can be accused of ordering inmates to strip bare for him as he made his rounds and of mendacity to federal brokers who requested him if he had ever requested inmates to undress for him or had inappropriately touched a feminine inmate.

“In the event that they’re undressing, I’ve already seemed,” Garcia informed the FBI in July 2021, in keeping with courtroom data. “I don’t, like, schedule a time like, ‘You be undressed, and I’ll be there.’”

Garcia was positioned on administrative go away earlier than retiring, He was arrested in September 2021.

The inmates weren’t recognized in courtroom papers. The AP typically doesn’t title individuals who say they’re victims of sexual assault until they consent to being recognized.

All sexual exercise between a jail employee and an inmate is unlawful. Correctional workers take pleasure in substantial energy over inmates, controlling each side of their lives from mealtime to lights out, and there’s no situation by which an inmate can provide consent.

Earlier this month, Deputy Lawyer Common Lisa Monaco directed federal prosecutors throughout the U.S. to “contemplate the complete array of statutes,” together with the federal Violence Towards Girls Act in circumstances involving Bureau of Prisons workers who’re accused of sexual misconduct.

In these circumstances, Monaco mentioned prosecutors ought to contemplate asking judges for sentences that transcend the federal pointers if the sentence really useful within the pointers isn’t “honest and proportional to the seriousness of the offenses.”

Monaco, a key participant within the Justice Division’s try to reform the federal jail system, meets usually with Bureau of Prisons director and the division’s inspector common and has met with U.S. attorneys and FBI Director Christopher Wray to emphasise the necessity to pursue prices when jail workers commit misconduct.

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Of the 4 different Dublin employees charged with abusing inmates, three have pleaded responsible and one is scheduled to face trial subsequent yr. James Theodore Highhouse, the jail’s chaplain, is interesting his seven-year jail sentence, arguing that it was extreme as a result of it was greater than double the really useful punishment in federal sentencing pointers.


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