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Prisoner Released To Battle Wildfires Accused of Rape

Ruben Hernandez, who was working at a remote Utah camp to help with wildfire clean up, is being accused of exposing himself and sexually assaulting a woman who dismissed his advances.

By Jill Sederstrom

A prison inmate is accused of raping a woman while he was out of jail as part of a program to help fight wildfires.

Ruben Hernandez, 27, had been serving time on controlled-substance conviction when he was selected to participate in an Idaho Department of Correction initiative that temporarily releases "minimum security"-classified inmates to battle the blazes.

Jeffrey F. Ray, an Idaho Department of Correction public information officer, told Oxygen.com that Hernandez, at the time of the alleged rape, had been serving on a ten-man crew that performed janitorial duties around the fire camp, such as emptying garbage cans, tending to swamp coolers, sweeping the command center, and preparing and serving meals.

The crew was being supervised by two correctional officers who traveled with the inmates. Ray said there had been no indication that Hernandez could be violent.

However, during his time working at a remote base camp in Utah, he began flirting with a woman who was also helping with the wildfire related efforts.

Hernandez allegedly asked for the woman's number. She gave him a phone number, but it was reportedly the number of one her friend's husbands, rather than her own, in an attempt to get him to leave her alone, the Associated Press reported.

The alleged assault occurred on the morning of Aug. 29, after Hernandez allegedly entered a wash trailer and exposed himself to the victim as she watched a movie. He then requested oral sex, and when his advances were dismissed, police say he sexually assaulted the woman.

She was reportedly too afraid to try to stop the assault because she knew he was a prisoner.

Hernandez is being held without bail in Utah. He would have been eligible for parole in May for his drug conviction, according to the Idaho Statesman.

The other inmates in the vocational program have returned to their correctional facility in Utah, Ray said.

The recent allegations have sparked a review of current practices and, according to Ray, the correctional department plans to "work with the Idaho Department of Lands to ensure the way we select, train and deploy inmates to wildfires is sound."

[Photo: Idaho Department of Correction]

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