Two lieutenants and one guard from the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal jail in Brooklyn, NY, have been charged in federal court with sexually abusing female inmates. In their time at the jail, the lieutenants—Carlos Richard Martinez and Eugenio Perez—were both supervisors tasked with teaching their subordinates about the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), the 2003 federal law meant to prevent the sexual assault of inmates.
According to the New York Times:
...prosecutors say one lieutenant repeatedly raped an inmate shortly before she was scheduled to be turned over to immigration authorities and deported. Another lieutenant is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing inmates assigned to clean his office, or the hallway nearby. A third man, a rank-and-file corrections officer, who was also charged on Thursday, is accused of receiving oral sex from three inmates.
Martinez, Perez, and the third man, Officer Armando Moronta—who stand accused of sexually abusing nine women total—were arrested and arraigned on Thursday in Brooklyn Federal Court. All three pled not guilty.
According to prosecutors, Martinez used “physical force and fear to repeatedly rape” one inmate several times between December 2015 and April 2016. Because the alleged victim speaks limited English, never had visitors, and was to be deported at the end of her sentence, prosecutors speculate that Martinez saw her as an easy target for abuse. Additionally, he has a history of violent behavior toward women, having punched a female driver twice in the face during a road rage incident in 2016.
Perez is accused of abusing five women since 2013. Both he and Martinez face life prison sentences, while Moronta faces up to 60 years.
In a statement, Brooklyn’s acting United States attorney Bridget M. Rohde wrote, “By using their authority and power to prey upon and abuse female inmates in their care, these defendants violated their oaths of public service as well as numerous criminal laws.”
As NYT’s Joseph Goldstein notes:
Bringing criminal sex crime charges against corrections officers is rare and difficult. Inmates, fearful of retaliation, often wait weeks, months or longer to make an allegation, if they do so at all. When an inmate delays reporting, physical evidence has often disappeared, making the allegation a matter of the inmate’s word against the guard’s.
In fact, prosecutors say that a victim in one of the cases was told “not to tell” by her abuser and warned “that she could receive additional time in prison if anyone found out.”
Perez, Martinez, and Moronta are all currently being held without bail.