Ex-California prison officer charged with sexual misconduct

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A former guard at California’s largest women’s prison has been charged with sexual misconduct against at least 22 inmates, state prison officials said Wednesday.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it had shared the findings of an internal investigation into Gregory Rodriguez, a former Central California Women’s Agency official, with the Madera County District Attorney’s Office. Corrections Department spokeswoman Dana Simas said no charges have been filed against Rodriguez.

Misconduct by prison officials “undermined public trust,” Department of Corrections Secretary Jeff Macomber said at a news conference.

“We are continuing this investigation to ensure we root out any employees who do not follow the law and to seek out other victims,” ​​Macomber said.

The department said the investigation began in July after officials discovered that Rodriguez may have engaged in sexual misconduct against inmates at a women’s facility in Central California. The prison is located in Chowchilla, a small city in California about 120 miles (190 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco.

The Department of Corrections said Rodriguez retired in August after being contacted for an investigation.

It’s the latest allegation that California prison officials have mistreated prisons. A 2003 federal law called the Prison Rape Elimination Act created a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual assault by prisoners. But in 2018, another former corrections officer who had worked at a women’s prison in Central California for more than a decade was fired for sexual misconduct.

A senior BOP officer who worked at a women’s prison in the San Francisco Bay Area was repeatedly promoted after being accused of beating an inmate, an Associated Press investigation has found. A separate investigation has uncovered sexual abuse by corrections officers in a women’s prison.

The news release from the state Department of Corrections did not specify the type of conduct Rodriguez allegedly engaged in. But the state’s charges against Rodriguez come after attorney Robert Chalfant filed two federal civil rights lawsuits in early December accusing Rodriguez of raping two inmates in a Fits Jane Doe and Jane Roe.

Federal court records do not list an attorney for Rodriguez, and The Associated Press tried unsuccessfully to reach him at a phone number on public records. The lawsuits were first reported by The Sacramento Bee.

One of the lawsuits alleges that Rodriguez forced Doe to perform oral sex on him and then raped her in May. Another allegation alleges that Rodriguez began making inappropriate sexual comments to Jane Rowe before harassing her, sexually harassed her multiple times and eventually raped her in June.

Both lawsuits accuse prison officials of negligence, saying they failed to stop the attack, despite Rodriguez’s reputation among inmates as a predator.

A lawsuit also names the state Department of Corrections as a defendant.

The district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. But Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno told the Sacramento Bee that her office received the results of the state’s internal investigation last week. She said her office is still reviewing the information.

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Sophie Austin is a member of the Associated Press/State Council News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service project that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Austin on Twitter: @sophiadeanna

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