A former guard at the federal lockup in Los Angeles County was sentenced Monday, March 20, to 10 years behind bars for raping an inmate who was being held in an isolation cell while recovering from COVID-19.
Jose Viera, 49, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II, who ordered Viera immediately remanded into custody. Wright also scheduled a June 20 restitution hearing in the case.
Viera pleaded guilty last May to a single federal count of deprivation of rights under color of law, resulting in bodily injury. Viera was a corrections officer assigned to the Metropolitan Detention Center-Los Angeles on Dec. 20, 2020, when he entered an isolation cell where the female inmate identified by the initials J.P. was being housed. The inmate thought Viera entered her cell to bring her breakfast, as he often did, according to Viera’s plea agreement.
“Instead, defendant laid down next to her in her bed, sandwiching her between his body and the wall,” according to the document filed in federal court. “In doing so, defendant positioned himself with the front of his body pressing against victim J.P.’s back.” After being told by J.P. to stop, Viera proceeded to rape the woman. The inmate “feared physical harm from defendant as it was happening, and in fact, defendant’s conduct resulted in bodily injury” to the victim in the form of soreness and pain, according to the document.
“In performing this act, defendant did so willfully, that is, the defendant knew his conduct was against the law but engaged in such conduct anyway,” according to the document.
At his initial court appearance last year, Viera was granted release on a $25,000 bond with the conditions that he have no contact with J.P. and that he participate in mental health counseling and/or treatment.
“A corrections officer’s job is to ensure the safety and security of those in custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s civil rights unit.
“Instead, the defendant’s actions did just the opposite, destroying this woman’s sense of peace and trust in law enforcement. We hope this sentence provides a measure of justice to the victim and a reminder to would-be offenders that the Justice Department is committed to ensuring that those who work in federal prisons and abuse their positions of authority by sexually assaulting people in their care will be held accountable,” Clarke said.