A correctional officer pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to raping a woman at the Downtown Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center while she was in COVID-19 isolation.
Jose Viera, 49, of Monterey Park, pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under cover of the law for sexually assaulting the woman, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Viera was working as a federal corrections officer on Dec. 20, 2020, when he went to the woman’s cell and raped her, prosecutors say. The woman was in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus, and she believed Viera was bringing her breakfast as he had before, according to the plea agreement.
The woman, identified as “JP” in court documents, said Viera lay next to her in her bed, sandwiching her between her body and the wall.
He then groped her and forced himself before penetrating her “even though she told him she didn’t want him to do it”, according to court documents.
Viera assaulted the woman knowing she was not consenting and that her actions violated her constitutional rights, according to the plea agreement, and she was injured after the rape.
Investigators found Viera’s semen on the woman’s sheets, but he lied when confronted with evidence from the FBI and the US Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General, prosecutors said.
“Law enforcement officials have a duty to protect the civil rights of all Americans, and failure to uphold this principle will result in decisive action,” US Atty said. Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement.
“The defendant betrayed his oath to uphold the Constitution and targeted a vulnerable woman in custody,” the deputy prosecutor said. Gen. Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
Viera pleaded guilty Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II and is expected to be sentenced in March 2023. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
He was placed on administrative leave in March, according to the Justice Department. The Federal Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to requests for comment on his guilty plea.
Los Angeles Times