By SDCN Staff
A federal grand jury in Oakland, California, returned an indictment Thursday charging a former California correctional officer with sexual abuse charges against two female inmates.
John Russell Bellhouse, 39, formerly of Pleasanton, California, was originally charged by criminal complaint on Nov. 30, 2021, with one count of sexual abuse of a prison ward.
According to the superseding indictment, two charges allege Bellhouse, a former correctional officer at an all-female correctional institution in Alameda County that houses federal prisoners and is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, sexually abused Victim 1 and a third charge alleges Bellhouse engaged in abusive sexual contact with Victim 1. All three incidents occurred before October 2020, with two occurring as early as February 2020 and the third as early as December 2019. All three incidents are alleged to have occurred within FCI Dublin Prison Safety facilities.
The superseding indictment further added three additional charges that Bellhouse sexually abused two other female victims identified as “Victim 2” and “Victim 3.” Both Victims 2 and 3 are described as inmates who were serving their prison sentences at FCI Dublin at the time of the sexual abuse and were also under the custodial supervision of Bellhouse. The superseding indictment charges two counts of abusive sexual contact by Bellhouse against Victim 2. One of these contacts is alleged to have occurred between October and December 2020 and the other on Oct. 22, 2020. The superseding indictment also charges one count of sexual abusive contact by Bellhouse against Victim 3 between May and December 2020. All of the charged acts involving Victim 2 and Victim 3 are alleged to have occurred in the FCI Dublin Camp Safety Office.
“The additional charges unsealed today demonstrate the priority the Department of Justice has placed on prosecuting cases of sexual misconduct by Bureau of Prison employees,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “We have no tolerance for correction officers who betray the trust placed in them to safely and humanely care for those in their custody.”
“Individuals incarcerated in federal prisons should never experience sexual abuse, and particularly not at the hands of correctional officers charged with maintaining safety and order within the institution’s walls,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds for the Northern District of California. “The security of inmates is a vital priority within our prison system. This office will continue to pursue allegations of correctional officers abusing inmates and will seek accountability for those who engage in such conduct.”
Bellhouse is charged in the superseding indictment with two counts of sexual abuse of a ward and four counts of sexually abusive contact. He is scheduled for his initial court appearance on Oct. 13, and his jury trial is set for June 5, 2023, before the U.S. Magistrate Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. If convicted of sexual abuse, he faces a maximum statutory sentence of 15 years in prison for each count. If convicted of sexually abusive contact, he faces a maximum statutory sentence of two years in prison, a minimum five-term of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine for each count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
An investigation was conducted by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the FBI.