Former corrections officer Jose Viera, 49, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting an inmate while she was in COVID-19 isolation. The guard then lied to federal authorities about the assault.
The attack took place in 2020 when Viera was working as a corrections officer at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Viera pleaded guilty to the assault in May 2022.
On Monday, Viera was sentenced to 10 years in the Central District of California by U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II.
During sentencing, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said Viera “caused incalculable pain” on the victim and “must be held accountable.”
“Law enforcement officials must be held accountable when they abuse their authority and exploit their power to sexually assault the very people they are sworn to protect,” Clarke said in a statement. “This defendant’s actions destroyed this woman’s sense of peace, caused incalculable pain, and shattered her trust in law enforcement.”
According to the court documents, Viera was tasked with caring for the woman, who had contracted COVID-19, while in isolation. Viera was permitted to enter her cell to give her food, a task he carried out several times before the assault.
The victim, who has been identified as only JP, said that on December 20th, 2020, Viera entered the cell and ordered her to face the wall. Viera then proceeded to rape her on her bed.
JP found semen on her bed sheets after the assault, which she was able to use as evidence.
“Had I not had that evidence, I wouldn’t have wasted my time reporting anything, because I would have known it would be his word against mine, and [Viera] was a sworn-in correction officer at the time, and I was just a criminally convicted felon,” She wrote to the judge, as per the Los Angeles Times. “They would have taken his word over mine, for sure.”
She described the incident as “torture” and said Viera “violated and humiliated” her in the “worst way possible,” as per the crime report.
Special Agent in Charge Zachary Shroyer for the DOJ-OIG, Los Angeles Field Office “Viera abused his power and sexually assaulted the inmate in her cell while she was extremely vulnerable in COVID-19 isolation.”
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