Security cameras, 'dead spots' at heart of sex abuse trial of ex-Dublin prison warden
OAKLAND, Calif. - Security cameras, or rather the lack thereof, and the many dead spots of video coverage is a central theme of the sex abuse trial against the former warden, charged with fondling, groping and taking naked photos of at least three women incarcerated under his care at the Federal Correctional Institute at Dublin.
Ray J. Garcia's defense attorney made that clear on the first day of trial this week in U.S. District Court in Oakland.
Despite testimony now from at least three women who say otherwise, attorney James Reilly said Garcia didn't engage in any of the sex crimes he's charged with, the women accusing him are all convicted felons and there is no video evidence to support what they claim.
"The evidence is not going to show one single video of any of these supposed events," Reilly told the jury of eight men and four women.
Prosecutors allege Garcia’s abuse of at least three incarcerated women followed a pattern that started with compliments, promises of transfers to lower security prisons, and ramped up to rough sexual encounters from 2019 to 2021. One woman has already testified that Garcia went from "sweet to pornographic" with her, and engaged in digital penetration in a bathroom and cell, where there are no cameras.
Prosecutors have, however, entered several still photos into evidence, including multiple images of Garcia's penis taken on his prison-issued cell phone and screen shots he is charged with snapping during a video chat with a naked women after she left the prison and was in a halfway house in Alaska.
On Tuesday, former FCI Dublin unit manager Stephanie Milliken testified that the prison lacks enough cameras, not all of them that are there actually work, not all of them are monitored and that footage can be deleted for unknown reasons and unknown times. The warden would know these things, she testified.
While the Bureau of Prisons has refused to say just how many security cameras have been installed at FCI Dublin, Garcia's lawyer in court said there were 198.
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All this talk of lax security video has FCI Dublin correctional officer union president Ed Canales steaming mad. He has been in court watching the trial against his former boss.
"I have brought up this camera issue for more than a decade," Canales said on Tuesday, showing documentation of his complaints to the regional and central BOP offices, where camera purchases are made. "I warned the agency about allowing a warden to have access to these cameras."
Canales said that the warden can see which cameras are operational, and which are not, from a laptop in his office – making the system ripe for abuse.
He showed KTVU some of the documentation that he provided higher-ups stemming from 2014, when he wrote "surveillance cameras are in dire need of repair and additional cameras are needed. The cameras that are functioning are blurry and need to be re-focused or repaired."
He sent several other missives about the dead spots and lack of cameras in 2018, 2019, 2022 and this year in September.
"FCI Dublin has been the center of media attention, Congressional attention due to multiple staff members being indicted for sexual misconduct from early 2021 to present and no additional cameras have been added in 2021 or 2022," he wrote.
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But Canales said his warnings have been ignored.
Canales said that the security cameras can protect the officers and the women. Most city and state police departments wear body cameras, and most county jails have videos installed in cells for this very reason. Federal officers, for the most part, do not adhere to these camera policies.
He said that 99% of the correctional officers who work at FCI Dublin are honest, good, hard-working people who do not abuse the incarcerated women.
But Garcia and the four other correctional officers charged with sex crimes taint the entire agency, Canales said.
"This warden is stigmatizing everyone," Canales said. "If the cameras were operational, then half of these cases wouldn't have happened, and officers would think twice about what they might have been planning on doing."
Conversely, because it's well-known there aren't enough working cameras at the facility, Canales said some of the incarcerated women are now falsely accusing officers of sex crimes, causing unwanted angst and Internal Affairs investigations in the department.
"Now inmates are making accusations, some of which are false," he said. "Because they know the cameras aren't working."
In an email this month to KTVU, the BOP said that "FCI Dublin is adding approximately 140 additional security cameras to ensure the safety of staff and inmates. This project is ongoing."
The BOP declined to say any more, including when any of these cameras will actually be installed.
The camera issue is concerned to Rep. Jackie Speier, who toured the prison in March, where she described the facility as a place of "cultural rot."
Speier's office told KTVU that she was hopeful the new BOP Director Colette Peters will "cut out the cancers and toxic environments within the Bureau and at the federal prisons. Nonetheless, it will be a Herculean task and congressional oversight is a must."
As for the cameras, Speier said she continued to be concerned that the new cameras have not been installed.
"Peters assured me that work was ongoing to lay new fiber and update technical requirements, but the lack of a more precise timeline on when they will be operational is a problem," Speier said in an email. "Getting the cameras up and running must be priority one."
Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at email@example.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez