DUBLIN, Calif. (KRON) — A young woman who was incarcerated in an East Bay federal prison says correctional officers fostered a “rape culture” while sexually abusing inmates.
The former inmate, Genesis Preciado, filed a civil lawsuit against one of the prison guards, John Russell Bellhouse of Pleasanton, for violation of Constitutional rights.
Bellhouse is one of five correctional officers charged with committing sex crimes against female inmates inside Federal Correctional Institute Dublin.
In 2020, Preciado was 21 years old when she pleaded guilty to smuggling methamphetamine and was sentenced to serve two years behind bars.
While she was an inmate, Bellhouse began making sexual advances and groping her, according to the lawsuit. Even after Preciado told the 42-year-old guard to stop, to not touch her, and pushed him away, the “outrageous” abuse continued, the suit states.
Bellhouse allegedly told Preciado that, instead of watching porn at home, he fantasized about her. “He told her that she was ‘pretty’ and that he ‘liked’ her, and that when he went home,
instead of watching porn, he thinks of doing things to her,” attorneys wrote.
Preciado was released from prison in January 2021. Bellhouse’s criminal trial is slated to begin in June. He pleaded not guilty.
A former prison warden of FCI Dublin, Ray J. Garcia, was convicted by a jury late last year on eight counts of sex abuse and lying to FBI agents. For Garcia’s trial, prosecutors played videos found on Garcia’s cellphone showing naked women in their cells.
Garcia “personally initiated the practices and customs that resulted in the Dublin ‘rape club’,” the Preciado lawsuit states.
The suit continues, “Officer Bellhouse, Officer Kingler, Warden Ray Garcia, and other BOP employees, including Officer James Townsend, Chaplain Hightower, and Officer Bell, fostered a culture of rampant sexual abuse of prisoners widely referred to as ‘the rape club.’ The culture, custom and policies of rape, sexual abuse and sexual harassment at FCI-Dublin and FCP Dublin, were enabled by the highest levels of staff , including but not limited to Warden Ray Garcia, who not only condoned it, but participated in it.”
Federal law prohibits sexual contact between prison guards and inmates, and inmates cannot legally give consent. “The very officers who were responsible for preventing and remedying sexual abuse were themselves serial sexual predators,” Preciado’s attorneys wrote.
Prison officials allegedly told one victim that they would take no action in response to her report of abuse because it was a “he-said-she-said” scenario.
Preciado was assigned to work in the recycling unit at the FPC Dublin facility. Bellhouse managed the recycling unit, which enabled him to have almost daily contact with her as her direct work supervisor. “Another guard, Officer Klinger, told Ms. Preciado to work in recycling
which Bellhouse controlled. Ms. Preciado is informed and believes she was assigned to
the recycling unit so that Bellhouse could abuse her,” attorneys wrote.
Garcia, 55, retired in 2021 after the FBI found nude photos of inmates on his government-issued phone. Prosecutors said Garcia tried to keep his victims quiet with promises that he’d help them get early release.
Bellhouse worked as the prison’s safety administrator until he was placed on leave in March 2021.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.