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Ex-Homeland Security agent convicted of rights violations for three sexual assaults

John Jacob Olivas, former U.S. Homeland Security agent, on federal trial, emerges from U.S. District Court on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in Riverside, Calif. He is accused of raping and physically abusing girlfriends and ex-wives, in some cases threatening them with his service weapon. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

A former Department of Homeland Security agent was convicted Wednesday of violating the civil rights of two women by trying to block them from reporting to police that he sexually assaulted them.

A federal jury found John J. Olivas of Riverside guilty of misusing his power as a Homeland Security Investigations agent when he assaulted the women in 2012.

Olivas, 48, raped one of the women twice and attempted to rape the other one once, the jury found. Each woman was his girlfriend at the time, and both testified that he beat them.

The women also told the jury that Olivas warned them that his job as a federal agent made him powerful enough to kill any investigation of his assaults if they were to report him to police.

Olivas faces a maximum penalty of life in prison when he is sentenced on March 11.

He has been free on bail since he was indicted in 2018, but U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal ordered him taken into custody Wednesday after the jury convicted him.

It was the second time that Olivas was tried on the three-count indictment. At his first trial a year ago, the jury deadlocked, and Bernal declared a mistrial.

The case was a rare federal prosecution of domestic violence under a civil rights law that’s more typically applied to police or prison guards who assault suspects or detainees.

The prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frances Lewis and Eli Alcaraz, stressed that Olivas repeatedly threatened to use his power as a federal agent against the two women.

“The manner in which he persistently berated them and beat them down with the fact that he was above the law, he was better than the cops, he was a federal agent, they were nobodies, and he used his position to his advantage in his personal life … is exactly what the civil rights statutes were designed to prevent,” Lewis said.

Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency hired Olivas as an armed federal agent in 2007, more than two years after an ex-wife had filed court papers accusing him of assaulting her.

The agency has not explained why it disregarded the public records documenting his history of domestic violence.

ICE issued him a gun in May 2008 despite a restraining order obtained by the ex-wife after she reported harrowing scenes of violence and threats by Olivas.

ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations arm took away Olivas’ gun in 2013 after the woman he raped reported the assault to Riverside police.

Olivas served 21 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2015 to state charges that he assaulted his father with a gun and injured the woman he was later found to have raped.

His attorney, Meghan Blanco, said a major challenge for Olivas in his second federal trial was that — unlike in the first trial — prosecutors told the jury of his admissions in the state case.

“Had he known that the government was going to be able to use his admissions against him in a similar case later on,” she said, “he never would have made them.”

Olivas, she said, will appeal the conviction.


© 2022 Los Angeles Times

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