The jury returned swiftly with a verdict in the trial of former FCI Dublin warden Ray Garcia, and he's been found guilty on all eight counts he was charged with, seven of which stemmed from sexually abusive conduct toward three female inmates.
On Thursday, after just two days of deliberations, Garcia was found guilty of seven counts of sexually abusive conduct and one count of making false statements to government agents. The conclusion of this trial comes 15 months after Garcia was initially charged by federal prosecutors based on complaints filed by one former inmate with whom Garcia had sexual contact.
Garcia, who lives in Merced, now faces up to 15 years in prison, as the Associated Press reports. He was placed on administrative leave back in July 2021 as federal investigators were circling, and he ultimately retired in late October 2021.
The sordid tale of what went on under Garcia's watch, both by his own hand and that of at least three employees, was apparently part of a yearslong pattern of gross and abusive behavior toward incarcerated women at FCI Dublin. Three victims came forward alleging that Garcia had commanded inmates to undress in front of him and had touched them inappropriately.
In the case of one victim, investigators found that Garcia had kept nude photographs of her on his cellphone and home computer. And the federal complaint further alleged that "Garcia told the victim that he was 'close friends' with the individual responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by inmates and told the victim that he could not be fired."
The minimum-security prison, located in Dublin near the county jail known as Santa Rita, houses around 700 inmates and is one of only five all-women prisons in the federal prison system. It's been called one of the 10 Cushiest Prisons in the country by Forbes, and it's seen several celebrity inmates in recent years, including Varsity Blues scandal participants Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin, as well as NXIVM cult ringleader Allison Mack, who remains incarcerated there after arriving last fall.
Garcia's was the only case to go to trial, as he was the only one of two of the five indicted prison employees to plead not guilty. Three others pleaded guilty to charges against them in recent months, while former correctional officer John Bellhouse has not yet gone to trial.
One former FCI Dublin employee, correctional officer Ross Klinger, was accused of conducting an ongoing relationship with one inmate he allegedly abused while she was behind bars. Klinger was also accused of abuse involving two other women, and of using their personal files as fodder for psychological abuse. He pleaded guilty, and he further faces a civil charge of sexual battery involving one of the women, the first such federal civil sexual battery charge in at least 25 years.
As the AP notes, Garcia's trial "called into question the Bureau of Prisons’ handling of sexual abuse complaints from inmates against staff and the vetting process for the people it chooses to run its prisons."
Following the verdict, U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds issued a statement saying, "As the warden of a federal correctional institution, Mr. Garcia had a special obligation not only to ensure the safety and well-being of his wards, but also to demonstrate to his subordinate employees that unethical, corrupt, and illegal conduct from prison officials would not be tolerated. Instead of ensuring the proper functioning of FCI Dublin, he used his authority to sexually prey upon multiple female inmates under his control."