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  • mcprison mcprison Mar 23, 2001 11:17 AM Flag

    Guard on trial for sex with inmate

    The Fresno Bee

    March 22, 2001, Thursday FINAL EDITION

    SECTION: LOCAL NEWS; Pg. B4

    LENGTH: 402 words

    HEADLINE: Former guard on trial in inmate sex act

    BYLINE: Jerry Bier THE FRESNO BEE

    BODY:

    A former federal correctional officer at the Taft Prison Camp is on
    trial in
    federal court in Fresno on misdemeanor criminal charges that she
    engaged in a
    sexual act with an inmate.

    The guard, Tammy L. Isbell, 42, is accused of performing oral sex on
    inmate
    Baltazar Magana in a darkened conference room at the prison camp.

    Most of the testimony Wednesday came from Rickey Benson, a former
    sergeant of
    Isbell's, who said he discovered her with Magana in the conference
    room, an area
    off-limits to inmates.

    Isbell's defense lawyer, Richard Berman, told the 11 women and one
    man on the
    jury during opening statements Tuesday that the evidence will show that
    Magana
    is "a drug dealer and a federal convict" and he is "also a liar."

    Magana is expected to testify that he and Isbell had met on prior
    occasions
    and engaged in kissing and touching before the night of the alleged
    oral
    copulation.

    In opening arguments for the government, Kim Raven, a law clerk and
    prosecutor-in-training with the U.S. Attorney's Office, said that
    Benson saw a
    blond head about table-height through a door window the night of Aug.
    12, 1999.

    Benson, now a security guard in San Diego, said he confronted Isbell
    when she
    came out the door and she appeared nervous and tried to block his entry
    into the
    room.

    When he did enter, he found Magana sitting in a chair.

    Berman earlier had told the jury that Benson has never said he
    actually saw a
    sex act and the only evidence of that will come from Magana, who did
    not admit
    it until after he had been put in the nearby Taft Correctional
    Institution's
    security-housing unit, a lockdown area. The SHU is a stark contrast to
    the
    prison camp, where inmates enjoy relative freedom of movement.

    "What has he got to lose by saying that?" Berman asked. "He's got
    everything
    to gain."

    Berman said Isbell, who resigned after the incident, has been married
    for 21
    years and she and her husband, Paul, have two sons. He said her husband
    will
    testify in support of her.

    Prison guards who fraternize with inmates are subject to dismissal.
    Guards
    who engage in sexual contact are subject to criminal charges.

    Both the Taft institution and the camp are privately operated by the
    Wackenhut Corrections Corp. under government contract.

    The trial before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill is
    expected to
    last nine days.

    The reporter can be reached at jbier@fresnobee.com or 441-6484.

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