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  • mcprison mcprison Mar 28, 2001 6:26 PM Flag

    Guard acquitted in Fresno

    The Fresno Bee

    March 24, 2001, Saturday FINAL EDITION

    SECTION: LOCAL NEWS; Pg. B3

    LENGTH: 336 words

    HEADLINE: Ex-guard acquitted of sex charge Federal jury returns innocent verdict
    in incident with an inmate.

    BYLINE: Jerry Bier THE FRESNO BEE

    BODY:

    A federal court jury took less than 90 minutes Friday to find a former
    federal correctional officer innocent of misdemeanor charges that she had sexual
    relations with an inmate.

    A sobbing Tammy L. Isbell stood and thanked the 11 women and one man on the
    jury for "giving me my life back."

    Isbell, 42, was accused of performing oral sex on inmate Baltazar Magana in a
    darkened conference room at the Taft Prison Camp on Aug. 12, 1999.

    Shortly before the jury began its deliberations, Isbell's lawyer, Richard
    Berman, had beseeched the jurors: "You are liberty's last champion. Let her go
    out with Paul (her husband) today into that beautiful sunlight."

    Berman, who had said he expected to call 41 witnesses in her defense, chose
    instead not to present a defense for Isbell, but attacked as lies the
    prosecution testimony of Magana and a prison guard who found Isbell in the
    conference room with the inmate.

    "We were able to use their witnesses to show there was no reason to find her
    guilty," Berman said. "She was in fact innocent."

    In her closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Virna L. Santos had told the
    jury it was undisputed that Magana was in an area with Isbell that was
    off-limits to inmates and on a floor in which she was the only guard on duty.

    Isbell also attempted to block a supervisor's entry into the room when she
    was discovered with Magana, Santos noted, lending credence to allegations she
    had done something wrong.

    The jury foreman, the lone man on the panel, told Magistrate Judge Lawrence
    J. O'Neill: "You picked a good jury. We just had a good time and got to know
    each other."

    Prison guards who fraternize with inmates are subject to dismissal. Guards
    who engage in sexual contact are subject to criminal charges. Isbell resigned
    her job after the alleged incident. Both the Taft Correctional Institution and
    the camp are privately operated by the Wackenhut Corrections Corp. under
    government contract.

 
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