A former federal corrections officer accused of sexually abusing inmates at a women's prison in the Tri-Valley made his first court appearance last Wednesday after a grand jury indicted him on 12 counts, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Darrell Wayne Smith, 54, now residing in Florida, is accused of sexually abusing three female inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin between May 2019 and May 2021. The facility is a low-security women's prison.
The indictment describes Smith allegedly engaging in illegal sexual contact and acts with the victims, including by use of force.
"As alleged, Darrell Smith exploited his authority to sexually abuse three vulnerable victims in custody at FCI Dublin," deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco said in a statement.
Prosecutors have previously convicted four other employees of the Dublin facility for using their power to sexually assault inmates.
Ray Garcia, the former warden there, was sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison in March for sexually abusing three female inmates and then lying about it to investigators.
During Garcia's sentencing, the judge referred to the Dublin facility under his watch as a "cesspool".
Former Chaplain James Highhouse was given over seven years in federal prison last August for forcing inmates to have sex with him.
In February, a former corrections officer, Enrique Chavez, was given 20 months in prison for abusive sexual contact with an inmate in 2020. That same month, Ross Klinger, another guard caught up in the scandal, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual abuse stemming from 2020.
Jury selection began Friday for another former employee of the prison, John Russell Bellhouse, who is accused of sex crimes involving inmates from 2018 to 2021.
Smith is charged with five counts of sexual abuse of a ward, six counts of abusive sexual contact, and one count of aggravated sexual abuse, prosecutors said.
If convicted, Smith faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for aggravated sexual abuse, 15 years for each count of sexual abuse of a ward and two years for each count of abusive sexual contact.
Smith's next federal court appearance is scheduled for July 10.