A former California federal correctional officer whom prosecutors allege had started calling a female inmate “his ‘girlfriend’” has been found guilty of sexual misconduct.
John Bellhouse, 40, is now set to be sentenced in August after being convicted this week of five counts of sexual abuse involving two women at FCI Dublin, outside of Oakland, between 2019 and 2020.
Prosecutors alleged in court documents that Bellhouse “began to express an interest in a particular female inmate and started calling the inmate his ‘girlfriend’” in 2020. Authorities said he inappropriately touched the woman and that she performed oral sex on Bellhouse twice in the prison’s safety office.
Prosecutors also said Bellhouse allowed one woman to use an office phone — violating Bureau of Prisons policy — and gave her earrings. Another inmate was tasked to act like a lookout during at least one of the sexual encounters, according to prosecutors.
“My clients feel heard,” Jessica Heard, a civil attorney representing one of the women, told KTVU. “Thank you to the jury for listening to their voices and delivering justice. Change is happening… Regardless of a prisoner’s crime, sexual assault is not part of their punishment.”
Bellhouse is the sixth employee at FCI Dublin to be charged with sexually abusing inmates, according to The Associated Press.
FCI Dublin is exclusively a women’s minimum-security prison and houses 1,235 inmates.
In December, former warden Ray Garcia was found guilty of molesting inmates and forcing them to pose naked in cells and has since been sentenced to six years behind bars, the news agency reports.
When the verdict was read against Bellhouse on Monday, he had tears in his eyes, a juror said to KTVU.
During both the Bellhouse and Garcia trials, the defense tried to argue that the female inmates were lying and convicted felons whose testimony could not be trusted, KTVU reported.
The station also said in Bellhouse’s trial. His lawyers argued the female inmates were motivated to make money off civil cases against him, while others gave testimony to prevent being deported from the U.S.
However, a Bellhouse trial juror who spoke on condition of anonymity told KTVU “we just didn’t buy it.”
FCI Dublin is located in the California Bay Area, about 20 miles east of Oakland.
Fox News’ Jessica Napoli and the Associated Press contributed to this report.