A former safety administrator at an all-women’s prison in California dubbed “Club Fed,” due to its perceived cushiness and its long history of housing stars, was found guilty Monday of sexually abusing two inmates.
John Russell Bellhouse, 40, was convicted of five counts in total, two for sexual abuse of a ward and three for sexually abusive contact, in connection with offenses that took place from December 2019 to December 2020, according to the Department of Justice.
According to the criminal complaint, which was filed in November 2021, Bellhouse worked as the “Safety Administrator at FCI Dublin prison and camp,” who was responsible for “pest abatement,” handing out cleaning supplies, and recycling, among other duties.
The government, citing Victim 1, alleged that Bellhouse “started expressing a romantic interest in her by flirting with her, complimenting her, and calling her his girlfriend,” even giving her “a pair of earrings and a necklace.”
“Victim 1 described the earrings, and told investigators that she ultimately gave the earrings back to BELLHOUSE because one of the earrings was damaged. BELLHOUSE told Victim 1 that he loved her and that he would wait for her when she got out of prison. On at least one occasion, BELLHOUSE allowed Victim 1 to use his office phone,” the complaint said. “Victim 1 also told agents that she and BELLHOUSE would kiss and hug each other when no one else was around. BELLHOUSE would touch Victim 1’s breasts and her vagina in BELLHOUSE’s office with the door closed.”
The complaint further said that Victim 1 “performed oral sex on BELLHOUSE on approximately two occasions,” and that on one of those occasions another inmate served as a “lookout.”
When the feds raided Bellhouse’s hotel room and car in June 2021, they found “numerous handwritten notes of romantic and sexual nature that appear to be written by inmates, as well as two photographs of Victim 1, and a driver’s license belonging to another former FCI Dublin inmate.”
They also found the earrings.
“Victim 1 confirmed that several of the notes were written by her, and that the photographs were the same photographs she had given to BELLHOUSE,” the complaint continued. “Investigators also seized earrings that matched the description of the earrings that Victim 1 told investigators BELLHOUSE gave her and she returned.”
The feds said they were able to corroborate the “lookout” detail from surveillance footage that there was at least one occasion that Bellhouse “was alone in the Safety Office with a different unidentified inmate while another inmate appeared to linger outside the door.”
The complaint said that Bellhouse was placed on leave as of March 2021.
A superseding indictment from September 2022 alleged that there was a second victim and that Bellhouse touched her buttocks and inner thigh.
The first three charges in the indictment related to Ana and the last two to Genesis, according to court records identifying the women only by their first names. Genesis previously stepped forward in a lawsuit against Bellhouse and disgraced former FCI Dublin warden Ray Garcia, who was convicted in December 2022 of sexually abusing inmates.
KUTV reported that in addition to allegations made by Ana and Genesis, a third woman — Cristina — testified at trial that Bellhouse digitally penetrated her after she took a shower. She also said that Bellhouse touched her breasts while she was in her cell, the report said. Prosecutors did not pursue charges in connection with Cristina’s allegations, however.
The court docket showed that jurors submitted two notes. While one note was just a status update on deliberations, the other note asked for clarification about whether count 4 related to a “buttock-touching” incident alone or if that count also included other “incidents of physical contact between the defendant and Genesis.”
The jury was told that the charge related only to the “buttock-touching” incident.
Bellhouse reportedly cried when the verdict was read.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers set sentencing for Aug. 30, the court docket shows. According to the DOJ, Bellhouse faces up to 15 years on each sexual abuse of a ward count and up to two years for each of the abusive sexual contact charges. That’s a total of up to 36 years.
While Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a statement that Bellhouse “committed an egregious breach of trust,” U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Ismail J. Ramsey called the defendant’s crimes “corrupt” and “despicable.”
DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz also weighed in on the case, as he has been investigating sexual abuse committed by several federal employees at FCI Dublin.
“Bellhouse violated vulnerable women under his custody and care, and a jury held him accountable for these despicable acts. Four other FCI Dublin employees, including the former Warden and Chaplain, have been convicted of sexually abusing inmates. Our investigation of sexual abuse at FCI Dublin remains ongoing, and we will continue to aggressively pursue justice for victims of sexual abuse at the hands of BOP employees.”
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