A Nassau County correction officer who prosecutors say raped and sexually assaulted at least seven female inmates pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a raft of new charges.
Mark Barber, 48, of Levittown, pleaded not guilty to an 80-count indictment that included two counts of third-degree rape and 11 counts of second-degree sexual abuse. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Barber, who was a grievance officer at the Nassau County jail, was in a unique position to spend time alone with inmates. They said he often would arrange private phone calls, provide cigarettes and deposit money into the commissary accounts of the female inmates he was targeting.
They also said he preyed upon women with mental health and drug problems and records of prostitution, probably because they were less likely to tell anyone about his behavior.
Barber's defense lawyer, Edward Galison of Mineola, could not immediately be reached for comment.
"This man was supposed to help these women with their problems, but instead he preyed on their vulnerabilities for his own sick needs," Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said. "He terrorized these women by abusing his limited jailhouse power, and for that, he could find himself on the other side of a locked prison cell door."
Under the law, all sexual contact between inmates and correction officers is illegal, even if the inmate says that she or he consents.
Barber, who had worked for the county Sheriff's Department since 1987, was arrested in December on charges that include rape, official misconduct, forcible touching and promoting prison contraband.
According to a lawsuit filed by five of the women, Barber usually began by flirting with the women, then coerced them into doing sexual favors for him by making them feel vulnerable and fearful.
According to the lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court in Mineola, one of the women became pregnant after Barber raped her. The pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, the lawsuit says.
"He preyed on defenseless women," said Jon Norinsberg, of Manhattan, who represents the five women in the suit. "He had the power to make their lives much easier or more difficult, and traded that power for sexual favors."
Barber is due back in court Sept. 28.