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Fifth BOP Staff Conviction and Sixth Arrest in California Prison ‘Rape Club’

by Jo Ellen Nott

Sexually abusive guards and their former warden are falling like dominoes as prisoners brave retaliation to report sexual abuse at the Federal Correction Institute (FCI) in Dublin, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) lockup in California now known as the “Rape Club.”

Six staffers have been charged. Five have been convicted. Four have been sentenced.

The latest guilty verdict was returned by a jury in federal court for the Northern District of California on June 5, 2023, against John Russell Bellhouse, 40. The former guard was convicted on five counts of sexually abusing two prisoners in 2019 and 2020.

He was originally charged with assaulting a prisoner he called his “girlfriend” in 2020, giving her earrings and letting her use his office phone. In return, he twice accepted oral sex from her in the prison safety office where he worked. A superceding indictment added another victim recruited to act as lookout for these liasons, though he had sex with her, too. Federal prisoners cannot legally consent to sex with BOP staff, and any sexual contact between them is a crime.

For each of two convictions of sexual abuse of a ward, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2243(b), Bellhouse faces up to 15 years in prison. For each of three additional convictions of sexually abusive contact, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2244(a)(4), he could serve up to two years in prison. Each of the convictions additionally carries a fine up to $250,000 and five years of supervised release. Given the nature of the crimes, he could also be ordered to register as a sex offender. Sentencing is set for August 23, 2023. See: United States v. Bellhouse, USDC (N.D.Ca.), Case No. 4:22-cr-00066.

Not long before that verdict was returned, on May 11, 2023, the sixth FCI-Dublin staffer was arrested on sexual abuse charges unsealed in an indictment in the Court that same day. BOP still employed Darryl Wayne Smith, 53, when he was arrested in Florida on 12 counts of abusing three prisoners, identified as “S.L.H.,” “C.A.H.” and “L.J.,” from May 2019 to May 2021. The guard, whom his victims nicknamed “Dirty Dick,” is accused of groping his victims and having sex with two of them – once in a janitor’s closet.

To one of his alleged victims, Smith was “the worst” of the abusers at the prison, “a pervert in its worst form.” She was among some 50 prisoners and former prisoners who came forward to tell media reporters that Smith “targeted and terrorized them.” They said he was fond of sitting in the dark and eating bananas while watching them undress.

“Like every time we get out of the shower, opened a door, anything, he would be just standing right there looking, probably eating some bananas or something, just staring at us,” said former prisoner Linda Chaney of Sacramento.

When Smith’s direct supervisor, fomer unit manager Tess Korth, reported his behavior to then-warden Ray Garcia, she also noted that Smith would sit in the dark eating bananas while watching women undress. “He was disgusting,” she said.

However, Garcia was also eventually convicted in the sex abuse scandal, so it’s not surprising that Korth said she was forced out after making her report.

Garcia, 55, was convicted in late 2022 and sentenced on March 22, 2023. That was soon after former guard and kitchen supervisor Enrique Chavez, 49, got a  20-month term on February 9, 2023. It was also just months after former chaplain James Theodore Highhouse, 49, began a seven-year federal prison term on November 2, 2022. [See: PLN, June 2023, p.60.]

Handing Garcia nearly six years in federal prison, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers told the disgrsaced warden: “You entered a cesspool and then did nothing about it. You just went along with the ride and enjoyed the cesspool yourself.”

Still awaiting sentencing later in June 2023 was former guard and technician Ross Klinger, 38. He pleaded guilty on February 10, 2022, to coercing three prisoners to have sex with him in 2020 with gifts, money and offers to marry them and father their children. He even stalked one woman after he was transferred to another prison, using an email alias—“Juan Garcia”—to manipulate her with details gleaned from accessing her prison records without authorization. [See: PLN, May 2022, p.28.]

Klinger cooperated in prosecuting the other staffers convicted in the scandal at FCI-Dublin, which now has the dubious distinction of having the most guards charged with sex crimes of any prison in the country.

Additional sources: AP News, Davis Vanguard, Dublin Independent, KTVU, Los Angeles Times, Pleasanton Weekly