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Ex-guard faces at least 4 years for sexual assaults at halfway house

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Eric Trujillo, a former monitor/guard at a federal halfway house in Albuquerque, could get just under a year for each of the women he sexually assaulted while they were in his custody.

But he could also get more.

Trujillo, 35, entered a guilty plea to sexually abusing six female inmates who were under his custodial authority in incidents dating back to 2012. The plea agreement says he can be sentenced to as few as four years and as many as 15 when he appears for sentencing.

Court documents suggest there was more than one sexual encounter with each of the women housed at Dismas Charities on Menaul NW under a U.S. Bureau of Prisons contract.

Trujillo, who had been released on home detention and other conditions pending trial, was taken into custody immediately after the Monday plea hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa.

Khalsa ordered a pre-sentence report to be prepared before Trujillo is sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo.

U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez and Special Agent in Charge Monte A. Cason of the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General, Dallas Field Office, announced the plea.

Trujillo also will be required to register as a sex offender, as specified in the agreement.

He was arrested last November on a seven-count indictment charging him with aggravated sexual abuse and sexual abuse of persons in official detention while he was a resident monitor at the house that provided lodging and other services for federal inmates under a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

The indictment was superseded in March to add sexual abuse charges involving two more women.

The charges stemmed from a federal Department of Justice investigation, but officials provided few details about the case after Trujillo’s arrest. Authorities did say that Trujillo first sexually assaulted a female inmate on June 28, 2012.

In the plea, Trujillo admits abuse of one inmate between June and September 2012, another between May 31 and Sept. 7, 2012, and others in November 2012, September to October 2012, July to October 2012 and Nov. 23, 2013, to March 19, 2014.

The women, identified only by their initials, were in detention and under Trujillo’s supervisory and disciplinary authority.

Collectively they also have filed a personal injury lawsuit naming Trujillo and Dismas Charities as defendants. Prosecutors asked the judge to bar the defense from inquiring about it during cross-examination at trial.

Any such discussion would be highly prejudicial, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Novaline Wilson and Sarah J. Mease said in their motion. It would confuse the jury and cause jurors to question the victims’ motivation “when the reality is (they) are only exercising their right to seek remedy through civil action.”

The defense said in response that the victims “have a substantial financial incentive to see (Trujillo) convicted in this criminal case.”

Prosecutors also wanted a pretrial ruling that excluded consent as a defense to sexual abuse, noting that because of the power differential between a detainee and a ward, consent is not a defense.

Trujillo no longer works for the halfway house.

Dismas Charities is a Kentucky company that operates 26 residential re-entry centers for federal prisoners in 11 states, according to a separate federal lawsuit by two more female inmates allegedly assaulted by a resident guard/monitor other than Trujillo at the same facility.

That lawsuit said Dismas Charities, which has operated the Albuquerque center since 2005, received a $1.86 million base contract in 2010. It said that the layout of the center and the way in which female inmates were maintained made it “ripe” for physical assault. The litigation was settled in January.