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Federal Prison Guards’ Convictions Affirmed in Sex Scandal

by David M. Reutter

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the convictions of two guards convicted in a sex-for-contraband scheme at the Women’s Federal Correctional Institute in Tallahassee, Florida. PLN previously reported the arrests and indictments in this case. [See: PLN, Aug. 2007, p.38; Oct. 2006, p.12].

Before the court was the appeal of former prison guards Alan Moore and Gregory Dixon. While they had proceeded to trial, their four co-defendants pleaded guilty, assisted federal investigators and testified against them. Moore and Dixon were found guilty of conspiracy to accept an illegal gratuity. Moore was also found guilty of witness tampering, while Dixon received additional convictions for bribery. Both were sentenced to twelve months in prison followed by three years supervised release.

On appeal, they argued there was insufficient evidence to prove a conviction of conspiracy to accept an illegal gratuity and an “official act.” The appellate court noted that the elements of conspiracy are (1) an agreement between the defendant and one or more persons, (2) the object of which is to do an unlawful act or a lawful act by unlawful means. A “formal agreement” need not be demonstrated, as an agreement may be demonstrated by circumstantial evidence of a meeting of the minds to commit an unlawful act. Proof that the accused committed an act to further the purpose of the conspiracy can be used to prove the existence of an agreement.

The testimony of guard Alfred Barnes showed the existence of such an agreement. Barnes testified that “there was a mutual unstated understanding to switch [job] assignments” so Dixon could meet with prisoner “Sabrina B.” and Barnes could avoid prisoner “Shonnie D.” in order to prevent the sex-for-contraband scheme from being discovered.

Shonnie D. testified that Moore gave Barnes the key to the staff office area so he could meet with her in the middle of the night to have sex. She also testified that Moore allowed her to leave her unit to visit Barnes. Moore knew Barnes had engaged in sexual intercourse with Shonnie D., and Barnes testified they had an “understanding” that they would not turn each other in.

The Court of Appeals held that this constituted a conspiracy, as the guards’ actions fit within the definition of “official act” under precedent. Five specific incidents demonstrated sufficient evidence to uphold the convictions: (1) Dixon and Barnes switched unit assignments; (2) Dixon permitted Sabrina B. to telephone Barnes to request contraband; (3) Moore telephoned Barnes on Shonnie D.’s behalf; (4) Moore permitted Shonnie D. to leave her unit to meet with Barnes for sex; and (5) Moore gave Barnes the key to the staff offices to rendezvous with Shonnie D. in the middle of the night.

The evidence demonstrated there was an overall scheme. The actions all took place within the same prison location. Further, the guards achieved the common goal in the same manner – they gave contraband to prisoners in exchange for sexual acts. There was considerable overlap between those involved: Dixon had sex with prisoners Sabrina B., Letishe M. and Demetrius C., while Moore had sex with Sabrina D. and Latoya B.

As to Dixon’s bribery conviction, the appellate court found the jury instructions properly defined sex as a “thing of value.” The witness tampering charge was properly substantiated by Moore’s act of giving cigars to prisoner Shirley B. for “not telling” that she had witnessed him having sex with prisoner Sabrina B. The convictions of Moore and Dixon were therefore affirmed. See: United States v. Moore, 525 F.3d 1033 (11th Cir. 2008).

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Related legal case

United States v. Moore