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Ex-jail officer guilty of inmate sex abuse

Former corrections officer Mark Barber at the Nassau

Former corrections officer Mark Barber at the Nassau County Court in Mineola. (July 23, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

A former Nassau correction officer will experience life on the other side of prison bars after a jury found him guilty Thursday of using his position to extort sex from female inmates.

Mark Barber, 50, of Levittown, was held for a short while at the Nassau County jail, where he worked for more than 20 years, before being transferred to the Suffolk County jail, a spokeswoman said. He will be held there until Nassau County Court Judge Norman St. George sentences him to up to 10 years in an upstate prison on Sept. 18.

Barber's daughters sobbed as the jury forewoman announced Barber was guilty in 30 of 43 counts he was charged with, including third-degree criminal sex act, forcible touching and official misconduct. Barber was found not guilty of the most serious charge, third-degree rape.

"Today's verdict ensures that this defendant will be behind the cell doors he once was trusted to guard, and that's exactly where he belongs," said Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice in a statement.

Barber's lawyer, Edward Galison of Mineola, called the verdict a "travesty."

"These girls lied through their teeth and they were caught at it," Galison said outside court, referring to the inmates and former inmates who accused Barber of the abuse. "It's just a shame."

Galison also said several of the women were motivated by a $10 million lawsuit they've filed against Barber.

Barber, who was a grievance officer when the crimes occurred between 2007 and 2009, targeted inmates who had histories of drug abuse, prostitution or mental health treatment, prosecutor Bernadette Ford said in court. He made arrangements so he could be alone with six female inmates at various times, then asked them for sex in exchange for things they wanted, such as cigarettes and phone privileges, Ford said.

In one case, Barber entered a woman's jail cell, then asked her to show him her breasts, Ford said. In another, he arranged for a woman to join a work crew cleaning the jail chapel, then used the opportunity to get her alone in a rest room and ask for sex, Ford said.

Ford said the women agreed to have sexual contact with Barber, but she said under the law all sexual contact between inmates and correction officers is illegal, even if the inmate says that she or he consents.

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