Ex-jail guard pleads guilty to bribe

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By David Giuliani

A former San Miguel County jail guard has pleaded guilty to accepting an offer of a bribe to allow two inmates to have sex. Another guard is facing a charge of raping an inmate.

Meanwhile, the attorney for the alleged rape victim has put the county on notice that she may sue for her suffering because of the alleged incident.

The cases have prompted the jail to consider additional measures to prevent such situations from happening.

Joseph Romero, 22, 526 Chavez St., has pleaded guilty to accepting an offer of a bribe, according to the district attorney’s office. On Nov. 13, Romero allegedly agreed to accept $100 from a male inmate who wanted to have sex with a female inmate.

Romero reportedly told state police he agreed to the deal because it was an “easy way to earn a quick buck.” He took the two inmates to the sally port area, so they could have sex. Not long after, he rushed them out because he feared he would be caught, according to a police report. He said he never received the money.

Another jail guard, Victor Baca, 26, 820 Washington St., has been charged with rape, in an incident that happened around the same time as Romero’s, documents state. Baca is now headed to trial in District Court.

The alleged victim told Las Vegas police that Baca took her out of her jail cell for the supposed purpose of getting new orange uniforms. They went to the laundry room and talked for awhile, then Baca walked toward her and raped her, according to the police report.

The alleged victim said she didn’t report to authorities right away because of fear for the safety of her family and that she wouldn’t get out of jail the next day as planned.

Baca admitted to having sex with the woman, but said she started the sexual encounter, the report states. She denied that allegation.

The woman’s attorney, Marc Grano, informed the county by letter in December that his client may file a possible claim and asked that all evidence be preserved.

As for Romero’s case, District Attorney Richard Flores said in a statement that Baca compromised the jail and the community.

“Additionally, his acceptance of a bribe further undermined the credibility of the jail and the hard-working and honest staff members working there,” Flores said in a statement. “A message must be sent that such behavior will not be tolerated — corrupt guards will be prosecuted.”

Patrick Snedeker, the jail’s warden, said the guards in question have been fired. They were on probation status when the alleged incidents occurred.

“Immediately after it was brought to our attention, we went by our protocols,” he said.

Since November, Snedeker said the jail has taken steps to make sure that a female officer is on duty each shift.

He said the jail has cameras all over the facility but that the cameras need recording capacity.

The laundry room doesn’t have a camera, but Snedeker plans to get cameras in that room and other places when the jail gets the money.