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Jury gets ex-correction officer's sex case

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 accused of sexually abusing several female inmates chose his victims carefully, selecting those who would be least believable if they ever complained about him, a prosecutor said in her closing argument Monday.

"Ask yourselves why there are no 45-year-old married housewives arrested for drunk driving here complaining," prosecutor Bernadette Ford told a jury of nine women and three men. "Mark Barber selected his targets so they would have the very characteristics for which he's claiming today that you shouldn't believe them."

Ford said Barber chose to prey on six women with troubled pasts, many with convictions for drug, prostitution and theft.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberating Tuesday on the charges against Barber, a former inmate grievance officer fired in 2009, that include rape, official misconduct, forcible touching and promoting prison contraband. If Barber, 50, of Levittown, is found guilty of the most serious charges against him, he faces up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.

But Barber's lawyer, Edward Galison of Mineola, said the women who testified against Barber were shown to be repeatedly lying.

For instance, he said, a woman claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Barber in a part of the East Meadow jail that Barber didn't have access to.

"These witnesses were terrible, and they have absolutely no credibility," he said.

While cross examining one woman earlier in the monthlong trial, Galison unrolled her more than 30-page criminal history, which he stapled end to end to create one continuous document.

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

Between 2007 and 2009, Ford said Barber made arrangements so he could be alone with the women, then asked them for sex in exchange for items they wanted, such as cigarettes and phone privileges.

Ford said that although the women agreed to have sexual contact with Barber, under the law, sexual contact between inmates and correction officers is illegal -- even if it's consensual.

The trial before Judge Norman St. George has taken several twists and turns, and has drawn a large crowd of spectators in the county court in Mineola.

At one point, Galison questioned a witness pointedly about whether she was certain her encounters had been with Barber and not his identical twin brother, John, who is a Nassau correction officer. On the stand, the woman identified a photo in evidence as being of Mark Barber, when in fact it was a photo of his brother.

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