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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, December 3, 2021

Federal Correctional Officer Charged With Sexual Abuse Of An Inmate

OAKLAND–John Russell Bellhouse appeared today in federal court to face the charge of sexual abuse of a prison ward, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds, Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General Los Angeles Field Office Special Agent in Charge Zachary Shroyer, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair.

According to the complaint filed November 29, 2021, and unsealed today, Bellhouse, 39, of Pleasanton, was employed as a correctional officer at the Federal Correctional Institute Dublin (FCI Dublin), an all-female correctional institution that houses federal prisoners and is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).  Bellhouse held the position of Safety Administrator.  As a correctional officer, he supervised and had disciplinary authority over female inmates incarcerated at FCI Dublin.  Bellhouse was trained in BOP policies and procedures, which included training that sexual, financial, and social relationships with inmates are prohibited.  

The complaint charges that in 2020 Bellhouse engaged in sexual acts with an inmate.  The complaint describes that Bellhouse began to express an interest in a particular female inmate and started calling the inmate his “girlfriend.”  Among other benefits, he allegedly provided the female inmate with a gift of earrings and allowed her to use an office phone.  The complaint further alleges that Bellhouse began to engage in sexual touching with the inmate and eventually engaged in oral sex on two occasions.  The complaint describes that on one of those occasions oral sex allegedly occurred in the Safety Office, a space inside the prison accessible to both BOP staff and inmates.  Another inmate acted as a “lookout” during at least one of the sexual encounters, according to the complaint’s allegations.

In March 2021, Bellhouse was put on administrative leave due to the allegations described in the complaint.  

Bellhouse was arrested yesterday and made his initial court appearance today in U.S. District Court in Oakland before United States Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu.  His next court appearance is scheduled for January 10, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ryu.  

Bellhouse is charged with one count of sexual abuse of a ward in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2243(b).  If convicted, Bellhouse faces a maximum statutory sentence of 15 years imprisonment, a three-year term of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.  However, any sentence following a conviction would be imposed by a court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

The charges contained in the criminal complaint are allegations.  As in any criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.  

Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly K. Priedeman is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Leeya Kekona.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 
 

Updated December 3, 2021