LOS ANGELES – A former corrections officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) who sexually assaulted a woman in custody was sentenced today to 120 months in federal prison.
Jose Viera, 49, of Monterey Park, was sentenced by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, who ordered Viera immediately remanded into custody. Judge Wright also scheduled a June 20 restitution hearing in this case.
Viera pleaded guilty in May 2022 to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law.
Viera was a BOP corrections officer assigned to work at Metropolitan Detention Center-Los Angeles (MDC-LA), a federal prison which holds male and female pre-trial detainees and persons serving custodial sentences. In his role as corrections officer, Viera was required to uphold the Constitution and ensure the safety and security of persons housed at MDC-LA.
In December 2020, Viera was assigned to supervise incarcerated women who were quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure and infection. During the morning of December 20, 2020, Viera entered the cell of the victim, who was in COVID-19 isolation, as he had done on previous occasions to bring her breakfast. Instead, Viera laid down next to the victim in her bed, sandwiching her between his body and the wall. Then, he sexually assaulted her. Viera committed this assault despite knowing that the victim did not consent and that his actions violated her constitutional rights.
When the FBI and the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-OIG) conducted a voluntary interview of Viera about the sexual assault allegations, Viera lied to federal agents about his misconduct.
“By breaching his duty of trust, Viera harmed not only the victim, but also the system of justice he was entrusted to serve,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “My office will continue in its mission to ensure that no one is above the law, regardless of their position, and that victims receive justice.”
“A corrections officer’s job is to ensure the safety and security of those in custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Instead, the defendant’s actions did just the opposite, destroying this woman’s sense of peace and trust in law enforcement. We hope this sentence provides a measure of justice to the victim and a reminder to would-be offenders that the Justice Department is committed to ensuring that those who work in federal prisons and abuse their positions of authority by sexually assaulting people in their care will be held accountable.”
“Mr. Viera abdicated his duty and obligation to treat the prisoners in his care with dignity,” said Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI prioritizes cases involving abuse under the color of law and works with our partners to bring justice to those who deny others their Constitutionally protected rights.”
“Viera abused his power and sexually assaulted the inmate in her cell while she was extremely vulnerable in COVID-19 isolation,” said Special Agent in Charge Zachary Shroyer for the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, Los Angeles Field Office. “Today’s sentencing shows that Correctional Officers that abuse inmates will be brought to justice.”
The FBI and DOJ-OIG investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Thomas F. Rybarczyk of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section, and Special Litigation Counsel Fara Gold and Trial Attorney Nikhil Ramnaney of the Criminal Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted this case.