Sex abuse charges against former FCI Dublin prison warden now in hands of jury

A jury on Tuesday afternoon began deliberating the federal sex abuse case against the former prison warden of FCI Dublin – a man whose own lawyer deemed a "sexual documentarian," albeit one with an "impeccable career." 

The jury must decide whether Ray J. Garcia, 55, of Merced is guilty of eight charges: Three counts of having sexual contact with an incarcerated person, four counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of lying to the FBI. 

The first three counts carry a maximum penalty of 15 years each, the next four carry a 2-year maximum and the last one carries a maximum of eight years.  

"He lied through his teeth," Asst. U.S. Attorney Molly Priedeman said during closing arguments in U.S. District Court in Oakland. "His story doesn't make any sense." 

U.S. attorneys filed the formal charges on behalf of three women – Melissa, Maria and Rachel – who allege that Garcia fondled and groped them, told them to undress, had them stroke him and sometimes took naked photos of them from 2019 to 2021. 

For instance, prosecutors allege that Garcia digitally penetrated Melissa three times in the bathroom and in a warehouse, he showed her pictures of his penis and he took two photos of her naked on all fours in a friend's cell room after instructing her to insert a candy cane in her vagina.

They allege Garcia put Maria's hands on his penis in the laundry room and touched her breasts in her cell. 

And they allege Garcia kissed Rachel, grabbed her buttocks and then took photos without consent during video sex chats with her when she was living at a halfway house under the control of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in the fall of 2021. 

All sexual activity between a prison worker and incarcerated people is illegal. There is no scenario in which an incarcerated person can give consent.

In closing arguments on the seventh day of the trial, Priedeman told the jurors that Garcia had "complete control" when he was warden of the all-women's prison and he abused it "over and over and over again."

Priedeman called Garcia's modus operandi "calculated and perverse" because he approached women when they were most vulnerable, and then he "flattered, manipulated and groomed" them for sexual activity.  

"He targeted convicted felons stuck within the four walls of the prison that he controlled," Priedeman said. "He counted on their silence."

Priedeman also said that as warden, Garcia knew where the prison's 198 cameras were – and weren't – and he threatened the women against reporting him because he was friends with the head investigator.  He purposely fondled them out of the cameras' view, Priedeman said. 

But despite thinking that no one would ever believe them, Priedeman noted that the women eventually called Garcia's bluff. 

Melissa first reported these encounters to her attorney, who then in turn, contacted the FBI, which sparked the first elements of Garcia's criminal charges.

Priedeman also reminded the jury that these women have no motive to lie: In fact, all the women testified how severe retaliation is for reporting sexual abuse like this. 

Melissa testified her life has been complete hell since speaking out against the warden. 

MORE: Dozens of women detail rape and retaliation at Dublin prison, real reform is questioned

For his part, Garcia has categorically denied any sexual encounter or any inappropriate contact while he was associate warden and warden of FCI Dublin.

He declined comment to KTVU on multiple occasions outside court.

But he did take the stand for nearly three days, methodically giving his explanation of why he took the naked photos of Melissa. 

He testified he wanted to document her cutting up drugs until he realized she wasn't doing that and then took another photo to show she violated protocol by being naked in the day, even though he never filed that incident report because he wanted to cultivate Melissa as an informant instead.

And Garcia also testified why he engaged in a naked video chat with a formerly incarcerated woman named Rachel while she was in a halfway house, which he later acknowledged was a mistake.  

Again, Garcia said that he was trying to cultivate Rachel as a drug informant, which he admitted he did not write up in any official report. 

In closing arguments, defense attorney James Reilly reiterated what he said in opening statements: Not guilty. Not guilty, Not guilty. 

Reilly repeated that refrain eight times for each count alleged, as Garcia sat alert, leaning forward on the defense table and listening carefully to what was being said. 

And then Reilly attacked the character of the women. 

"The single most important thing is the credibility of these witnesses," Reilly said, adding that his client, by contrast, has a stellar track record in the BOP. 

"No one has that impeccable career if they're fiddling around with inmates," Reilly said. "Who are you going to believe?" 

And it's not just that the women aren't credible because they are criminals, but Reilly said it's they who are lying because Garcia emphatically maintains that he did nothing criminally wrong. 

"We have absolutely forceful denials by Mr. Garcia," Reilly said. 

Reilly said this is a classic "she said-he said" case, where there is "zero corroborating evidence" to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict Garcia of sexual abuse. 

The women did have a reason to point fingers at Garcia, Reilly said, as they could likely be transferred or released early to report abuses and work with prosecutors against him.

As an aside, Reilly did acknowledge that Garcia had "hundreds" if not "thousands" of photos of his penis on his prison-issued cell phone, but "not one of them" showed any sexual activity between his client and any incarcerated woman. 

Anyway, Garcia's extracurricular sexual exploits, Reilly told the jurors, are his own business. 

Only the jurors got to see these intimate photos during the trial as a way to protect the women's dignity. 

Before the lawyers rested their case, prosecutors brought in FCI Dublin Lt. Stephen Putnam as a rebuttal witness.

While several of the women said that Garcia had bragged to them that he would never be investigated because he was "best friends" with Putnam – the head of the Special Investigative Services – Putnam distanced himself from a man he has known for 20 years.

Putnam said the two were "not close friends" and had never been to each other's homes for socializing in two decades. 

Putnam was very clear in his testimony regarding Garcia and how his former boss violated prison protocol, especially when it came to Melissa. 

Putnam said that incident reports should be documented in the official prison system, a warden should not develop any confidential informant on his own, and no BOP employee should take photos of incarcerated women when they are naked – even if it's to prove they are naked in the middle of the day,

"BOP staff do not do that," Putnam said, declining further comment outside court. "We do not do that." 

Garcia is one of five correctional officers to be charged with sex crimes at the all-women's prison and the highest ranking federal prison official to be arrested on suspicion of these crimes. 

Three have pleaded guilty; and one of them – the prison chaplain – was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Garcia is the first of the five to go to trial.

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez