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SJ correctional officer arrested on charges of raping an inmate

A San Joaquin County correctional officer has been arrested for allegedly raping an inmate at the San Joaquin County Jail.

Zach Simmons, 34, has been on administrative leave pending an investigation since Aug. 26 after allegations surfaced regarding his conduct as a correctional officer at the facility in French Camp.

As a result of that investigation, the matter was forwarded to the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office for consideration. It was announced on Monday that Simmons will face a number of charges including rape through force, fear, or threats, sexual activity between an adult and an inmate, sexual penetration by an unknown or foreign object, and communication with a prisoner without consent.

Three of the four charges against him – he is facing two counts each of sexual penetration with force or fear and sexual activity with an inmate – are felonies.

“We in law enforcement hold ourselves to a higher standard, and that is why we have released this information regarding an employee,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement announcing the charges.

Simmons has been with the department since 2008.

"Correctional officers are in a position of trust, and they have a duty to ensure the well-being of those in custody under their care," county District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said in a statement. "There is no greater perversion of that trust than the sexual assault of an inmate under your care."

Salazar's office said it was setting up a hotline for current and former inmates of the county jail who may be victims of sexual assault there. The district attorney said services and counseling would be made available.

Simmons’ arrest marks the first time in more than a year that an employee of the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office has been arrested or charged for misconduct while on duty. In 2018 – three months before Sheriff Pat Withrow was elected to lead the department – three cases that resulted in charges against staff came within 30 days of each other and culminated in the arrest of then 47-year-old Danny Swanson for having sexual contact with inmates that he was tasked with transporting. Swanson pled guilty later that year and was ordered to serve 120 days in the county jail and remains on probation.

Simmons is currently being held on $1.2 million bail at the San Joaquin County Jail and is due to appear in Department Z of the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Downtown Stockton on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 1:30 p.m. to answer to the charges against him.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.