Share and Follow
A “cruel” former safety administrator and manager convicted of sexually abusing inmates at an all-women’s prison in California known as “Club Fed” was sentenced Friday to serve 5.25 years behind bars.
John Russell Bellhouse, 40, cried when he was convicted in June of two counts of sexual abuse of a ward and three counts of sexually abusive contact for crimes committed from December 2019 to December 2020.
Bellhouse’s offenses were part of a wide-ranging scandal of sexual abuse at FCI Dublin, whose former warden Ray Garcia was convicted of abusing inmates and former prison chaplain James Theodore Highhouse was convicted of sexually assaulting an inmate who was seeking spiritual guidance.
Several corrections officers have also pleaded guilty to sexual abuse charges amid DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s still-ongoing probe of sexual abuse committed by FCI Dublin employees. FCI Dublin is otherwise known as the lockup where actresses Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, two convicts in the college admissions cheating scandal, and convicted NXIVM cult member Allison Mack served sentences.
Bellhouse’s job at FCI Dublin was to be safety administrator responsible for “pest abatement,” which involved handing out cleaning supplies, and recycling, among other duties, according to his criminal complaint.
Instead, he “exploited his position of trust” by “sexually abusing multiple women in his custody,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a statement.
FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate called Bellhouse’s crimes “horrendous,” “cruel and despicable.”
“As a federal corrections officer, Bellhouse sexually abused inmates under his care and attempted to cover-up his crimes. These violations are inexcusable breaches of the trust and authority granted to government officials,” Abbate said. “This sentencing is a reminder that the FBI and our partners will relentlessly pursue those who physically harm others and hold them accountable.”
The government, citing Victim 1, alleged that Bellhouse “started expressing a romantic interest in her by flirting with her, complimenting her, and calling her his girlfriend,” even giving her “a pair of earrings and a necklace.”
“Victim 1 described the earrings, and told investigators that she ultimately gave the earrings back to BELLHOUSE because one of the earrings was damaged. BELLHOUSE told Victim 1 that he loved her and that he would wait for her when she got out of prison. On at least one occasion, BELLHOUSE allowed Victim 1 to use his office phone,” the complaint said. “Victim 1 also told agents that she and BELLHOUSE would kiss and hug each other when no one else was around. BELLHOUSE would touch Victim 1’s breasts and her vagina in BELLHOUSE’s office with the door closed.”
The complaint further said that Victim 1 “performed oral sex on BELLHOUSE on approximately two occasions,” and that on one of those occasions another inmate served as a “lookout.”
When the feds raided Bellhouse’s hotel room and car in June 2021, they found “numerous handwritten notes of romantic and sexual nature that appear to be written by inmates, as well as two photographs of Victim 1, and a driver’s license belonging to another former FCI Dublin inmate.”
They also found the earrings.
“Victim 1 confirmed that several of the notes were written by her, and that the photographs were the same photographs she had given to BELLHOUSE,” the complaint continued. “Investigators also seized earrings that matched the description of the earrings that Victim 1 told investigators BELLHOUSE gave her and she returned.”
The feds said they were able to corroborate the “lookout” detail from surveillance footage that there was at least one occasion that Bellhouse “was alone in the Safety Office with a different unidentified inmate while another inmate appeared to linger outside the door.”
The complaint said that Bellhouse was placed on leave as of March 2021.
A superseding indictment from September 2022 alleged that there was a second victim and that Bellhouse touched her buttocks and inner thigh.
The first three charges in the indictment related to Ana and the last two to Genesis, according to court records identifying the women only by their first names. Genesis previously stepped forward in a lawsuit against Bellhouse and disgraced former warden Ray Garcia.
KUTV reported that in addition to allegations made by Ana and Genesis, a third woman — Cristina — testified at trial that Bellhouse digitally penetrated her after she took a shower. She also said that Bellhouse touched her breasts while she was in her cell, the report said. Prosecutors did not pursue charges in connection with Cristina’s allegations, however.
When Bellhouse asked for a sentence of 2.5 years in prison, he included a letter from his father saying, “John and I had a rocky relationship ever since the day he had the courage to come out to me as a gay man.”
“I did not take it well, and I realize now that my behavior toward him was unsupportive and damaging,” Russell Bellhouse wrote. “I’m deeply ashamed that my personal feelings at the time caused such a deep rift between us. In recent years, I’ve worked much harder to be accepting of him, and I believe we have made slow yet meaningful progress towards bringing the father-son relationship back to what it always should have been.”
Bellhouse did not receive the leniency he sought.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers sentenced him to 63 months in prison plus five years of supervised release. According to the DOJ, Bellhouse will have a restitution hearing on the afternoon of Feb. 1 and must surrender by the following day.