Ex-warden says taking nude photo of woman in her cell was an accident
Ray J. Garcia took the stand in his own defense to explain how he happened to take the photo that allegedly shows a reflection of his face
By Nate Gartrell
Bay Area News Group
OAKLAND, Calif. — Jurors no longer have to wonder how Ray J. Garcia will explain the nude photo of an incarcerated woman, on all fours inside her cell, that allegedly shows a reflection of his face holding the camera.
Garcia, the former warden of FCI Dublin charged with sexually abusing three women in the prison, claims it was an innocent mistake.
Friday saw Garcia, 55, of Merced, take the stand in his own defense for the second day in a row to refute testimony of his alleged victims and others in the prison implicating him in multiple instances of alleged sexual abuse. He is also charged with lying to federal investigators.
The photo of the first of three alleged victims was one of the most damning pieces of corroborating physical evidence. Prosecutors have also shown jurors numerous photos of Garcia’s genitals, taken on his work phone, some of which he allegedly showed to the women.
On Friday morning, Garcia told jurors that he was walking a tier in the prison one Thursday morning in 2020 when he noticed a cell’s window was entirely covered up. He said it dawned on him that no one was supposed to be inside, and that it’s typical for inmates to obscure the window when they’re handling drugs or other contraband.
He testified he opened the door, digital camera in hand, and snapped a picture, expecting to catch a prisoner flushing drugs down the toilet to avoid being caught. Instead, he saw a woman “on all fours and completely naked” on one of the cell beds, just as the shutter clicked on his camera.
“I swung the door open and took an immediate picture without even focusing on what I was taking a picture of,” Garcia claimed on the witness stand. Once he realized what he was looking at, he began “yelling at the inmate to get dressed.”
Garcia’s version of events doesn’t end there. He admitted to taking the camera home and altering it to remove his face, on his personal computer. But he claims both of those things were done for valid, work-related reasons. He said he had a 24-hour deadline to write the woman up for indecent exposure, and that he knew the photo would show up in a report when he did so.
Ultimately, Garcia said he decided against reporting the woman’s “indecent exposure” inside the cell, but only after she agreed to “snitch” on corrupt guards who were bringing drugs inside the prison. He claims the woman boasted of being in charge of all the white inmates at FCI Dublin, and offered to help authorities stop the flow of contraband if he let her rules violation slide.
“I told her she better give me a good reason why I shouldn’t submit (the reports and photos),” Garcia testified. “She responded, ‘I’ll ensure that drugs never enter your visiting room.”
The woman added, according to Garcia, that “I hate all you f—ing cops. I have no problem telling on you.”
Garcia also categorically denied showing women pictures of his penis, or having them place their hands on his genitals, as his alleged victims have testified during this week’s trial in an Oakland federal courtroom.
At the beginning of the week, the woman in the photo testified that Garcia pursued her with “sweet talk” and indecent proposals, and that she genuinely believed he wanted to be in a relationship with her after she finished serving a 15-year prison term. She described three main sexual encounters but numerous other instances of misconduct, including that Garcia would tell her to undress in her cell and photograph her. Garcia, she said, would arrange the night before to have her be nude when he walked by her cell.
“I was in shock,” she testified about the first act of alleged sexual abuse, inside the prison’s visiting room. “I didn’t know what to think … but I felt like he loved me and cared about me, and I wanted to make him happy.”
The woman said she was reluctant to come forward because Garcia talked about being close friends with the lieutenant in charge of investigating alleged sexual abuse. She said enforcement of the Prison Rape Elimination Act was nonexistent in FCI Dublin and that she heard Garcia had sexually abused a second woman, in a different module, who is another of Garcia’s accusers.
Garcia is one of five former guards at FCI Dublin — the Bay Area’s only federal prison — to be charged with sexual abuse. Three have pleaded guilty. Two others are awaiting sentencing and one has been given seven years in federal prison.