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Sheriff's custody deputy sued by former inmate, accused of sexual misconduct in federal lawsuit
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Santa Barbara County

Sheriff's custody deputy sued by former inmate, accused of sexual misconduct in federal lawsuit

From the What you need to know for Monday, September 14 series
  • Updated

A former Santa Barbara County Jail inmate has filed a federal lawsuit against a sheriff's custody deputy who is accused of sexually abusing her while she was incarcerated in 2017. 

The plaintiff, named as Jane Doe 2, claimed sheriff's custody Deputy Gabriel Castro, 48, of Ventura, sexually assaulted her and violated her civil rights while she was incarcerated from May 2017 to October 2017, when she was discharged from the Main Jail. 

The plaintiff has not been identified due to the nature of the sexual assault accusations. 

Doe is seeking a judgment against Castro, as well as punitive damages, attorneys' fees and costs for bringing the lawsuit that was filed Sept. 8 at federal court in Los Angeles. 

Sheriff's employee Salvador Vargas Jr., 34, of Santa Maria, who worked as a social worker/discharge planner, is also accused of using his position of power to sexually assault other female inmates and was sued by a second female inmate in a separate federal lawsuit filed in May. 

Both Castro and Vargas were arrested on Feb. 21 and are facing criminal charges related to the same allegations. Vargas was booked into the Ventura County Jail and Vargas was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail. Bail was set at $100,000 for both men, who were released less than a week after their arrests. 

Castro and Vargas have been on paid administrative leave since September 2018, one month after the Sheriff's Office began an internal investigation, according to spokeswoman Raquel Zick. 

Castro is facing charges that include sexual penetration by a foreign object and sexual activity in a detention facility. He pleaded not guilty to both charges in March. 

Defendants in the lawsuit filed Sept. 8 also include Santa Barbara County and several unidentified employees who acted in supervisory positions, identified as Does 1 through 10, and whose names aren't known to the plaintiff but who are accused of "integrally participating or failing to intervene" in Castro's behavior.

Castro, who was hired in 2002, allegedly became known among female inmates for his inappropriate conduct, including exchanging candy for sexual favors and demanding inmates expose their breasts in exchange for mail, according to the lawsuit.

Castro's behavior toward Doe began shortly after her incarceration in May 2017, when he intentionally walked by as she was taking a shower and made sexual innuendos toward her, the lawsuit claims. 

When the plaintiff was placed in isolation, Castro allegedly came to her jail cell on a regular basis and required that she expose her breasts in exchange for her mail. 

The abuse escalated in August 2017, when Castro came to Doe's jail cell and demanded she take off all of her clothes and approach the tray slot, where he began assaulting her with his fingers while he masturbated, according to the lawsuit. 

"Plaintiff felt shocked, frozen in fear and deeply violated," the lawsuit reads. 

Doe said she suffered harm and violations of her Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth amendments. 

Castro, who is representing himself, appeared Thursday in federal court, where he was issued a summons to respond to the allegations by Oct. 1, according to court records. 

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The following is taken from the Santa Maria Police Department's calls-for-service log and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office daily arrest log. Those appearing as "arrested" are only suspected of the crime indicated but are presumed innocent.

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