by Benjamin Tschirhart
Ray Garcia was warden for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Dublin, California. He served as supervisor at the lockup for regular audits conducted under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). But after his sentencing before U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on March 23, 2023, Garcia is now a felon, sex offender and a prisoner himself. Before putting him behind bars for 70 months, Judge Gonzalez Rogers chided the disgraced prison official:
“You entered a cesspool and did nothing about it. You just went along for the ride and enjoyed the cesspool yourself…You should have done something about it.”
In December 2022, Garcia, 55, became the fourth FCI-Dublin staffer convicted out of five charged with sexually abusing prisoners. Former chaplain James Theodore Highhouse, 49, began a seven-year federal prison term on November 2, 2022. A 20-month prison sentence was handed to former prison cook Enrique Chavez, 49, on February 9, 2023. See: USA v. Chavez, USDC (N.D. Calif.), Case No. 4:22-cr-00104. That same month, former technician Ross Klinger, 37, pleaded guilty. [See: PLN, Feb. 2023, p.62.] He is expected to be sentenced in June 2023. See: USA v. Klinger, USDC (N.D. Calif.), Case No. 4:22-cr-00031.
Garcia told Judge Gonzalez Rogers and her federal court for the Northern District of California that he “could not be more ashamed…more sorry” for abusing prisoners for whom he was responsible. He said that he “cannot imagine the pain, fear and shame they’ve gone through as a result of [his] actions.”
But how hollow these statements ring, coming after his attempts to dodge responsibility by lying to federal investigators and blaming his victims for their own abuse. During trial, Garcia shamelessly told the Court that when he forced female prisoners to strip naked and pose for pictures in their cells, he was merely trying to “document” that the women were violating prison policy by “standing around naked.”
“I sentence hundreds of people,” Judge Gonzalez Rogers told Garcia. “I expect and they should be able to expect that when they go into federal custody, they won’t be abused. And you abused them.”
Garcia was in charge of educating new staff on BOP sexual misconduct policies, even as he repeatedly subjected three prisoners to sexual exploitation and rape. Along the way, he was promoted from associate warden to warden. One of his victims appeared at his sentencing to tell him, “You are a predator and a pervert. You are a disgrace to the federal government…I can assure you my sentence did not come with a clause to be sexually abused by prison staffers.”
In addition to his prison term, Garcia was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine and serve 15 years under post-release supervision. Still he received far better treatment than many federal convicts – his sentence is just a fraction of the maximum 53-year term that he faced. Even after sentencing, Garcia was not immediately remanded into custody. Judge Gonzalez Rogers allowed him to go home to celebrate his son’s 16th birthday before he reports to prison. See: USA v. Garcia, USDC (N.D. Calif.), Case No. 21-cr-00429.
Still awaiting trial is John Russell Bellhouse, 39, another technician who was Klinger’s former boss. Bellhouse is charged with shaking down three prisoners for sex, currying their favor with earrings and use of his office phone. He has been free on $50,000 bond since shortly after his November 2021 arrest. See: USA v. Bellhouse, USDC (N.D. Calif.), Case No. 4:22-cr-00066.
Three civil suits filed by sex assault victims at the prison were stayed by Judge Gonzalez Rogers in March 2023. See: M.R. v. Fed. Corr. Inst. Dublin, USDC (N.D. Cal.), Case No. 4:22-cv-05137; and M.S. v. Fed. Corr. Inst. Dublin, USDC (N.D. Cal.), Case No. 4:22-cv-08924; and Preciado v. Bellhouse, USDC (N.D. Cal.), Case No. 4:22-cv-09096. Attorneys with the Pride Law Firm in San Diego are representing plaintiffs in the first two cases, while Preciado is represented by attorneys with McLane Bednarski & Litt, LLP in Pasadena. PLN will report developments in all three cases as they are available.
Additional sources: CBS News, The Guardian, KTVU, Los Angeles Times
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