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Federal corrections officer pleads guilty to raping woman at downtown L.A. jail

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A corrections officer pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to raping a woman at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles while she was in COVID-19 isolation.

Jose Viera, 49, of Monterey Park pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law for sexually assaulting the woman, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California.

Viera was working as a federal corrections officer on Dec. 20, 2020, when he went to the woman’s cell and raped her, according to prosecutors. The woman was in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus, and she thought Viera was bringing her breakfast as he had before, according to the plea agreement.

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The woman, identified as “J.P.” in court documents, said Viera laid down next to her in bed, sandwiching her between his body and the wall.

He then groped her and forced himself on her before penetrating her “even though she told him that she did not want him to do so,” according to court filings.

Viera assaulted the woman knowing that she did not consent and that his actions violated her constitutional rights, according to the plea agreement, and she was left injured after the rape.

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Investigators found Viera’s semen on the woman’s sheets, but he lied when confronted with the evidence by the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General, prosecutors said.

“Law enforcement officers have a duty to protect the civil rights of all Americans, and a failure to uphold this principle will be met with decisive action,” U.S. Atty. Tracy L. Wilkison said in a statement.

“The defendant betrayed his oath to uphold the Constitution and targeted a vulnerable woman in custody,” Assistant Atty. Gen. Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s civil rights division said in a statement.

Viera pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II on Tuesday and is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2023. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

He was placed on administrative leave in March, according to the Department of Justice. The Federal Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to requests for comment on his guilty plea.

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