Prison guards get jail for scheme

Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 11:46 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE — Two male guards each received one-year prison sentences Wednesday for their roles in a sex-for-contraband scheme that ended in a fatal shootout at a federal prison for women.

Gregory Dixon, who admitted having sex with inmates but denied giving them anything for it, has taken responsibility for his actions and was sorry, his lawyer said.

Dixon did not make a statement, but the other guard, Alan Moore, told U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle he was wrongly convicted.

"I did not do the things I was accused of," Moore said.

A jury in November convicted both of conspiracy to accept illegal gratuities. Dixon also was convicted on three counts of bribery and Moore on a single count of witness tampering. At the sentencing hearing, though, Hinkle reversed another guilty verdict against Moore for accepting an illegal gratuity.

Hinkle gave both men less than half of the time called for by sentencing guidelines, which set a range of 27 to 33 months for each.

Dixon and Moore were among six guards who had been charged with being part of a conspiracy to trade cigars, cigarettes, chewing gum, jewelry and cosmetics to inmates for sex and money at the Tallahassee Federal Correctional Institution.

One guard, Ralph Hill, pulled out a gun and began firing at federal agents who had gone to the prison to arrest the suspects June 21.

Hill and Justice Department Special Agent William "Buddy" Sentner were killed. A prison officer who was aiding in the arrests was wounded.

Three other guards pleaded guilty in deals with prosecutors. Alfred Barnes received a one-year prison sentence for conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Vincent Johnson was placed on probation after pleading guilty to coercing inmates to keep quiet about the conspiracy.

E. Lavon Spence is to be sentenced Feb. 15 for conspiracy to commit mail fraud. His sentencing was delayed because he had suffered a stroke.

Hinkle said he gave Dixon and Moore reduced sentences partly because the guidelines for simply having sex with inmates are lower, ranging from 15 to 21 months, or 10 to 16 months if a defendant admits guilt. He said he considered the sex the most serious aspect of the crimes because it involved mistreatment of inmates.

Dixon did admit having sex with inmates and giving them gum and cigars but insisted there was no quid pro quo, said defense lawyer Thomas Findley.

The judge also noted both men had served with distinction in the military, had spotless employment records, no prior criminal records and led responsible personal lives. Both wives tearfully urged the judge to show mercy and said they were standing behind their husbands.

Defense lawyers said neither man had yet decided whether to appeal. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Sprowls said the government may appeal the sentences as being too low. Sprowls had sought significant prison time but did not recommend a specific length.

"They took an honorable position and public trust and used it for self-gratification," he told the judge. "Their conduct was a complete abandonment of what they knew was right."

Hinkle also placed both on controlled release for three years upon completing their prison sentences. He ordered Dixon to pay $3,400 in fines and assessments and Moore $6,200.

The judge ordered Moore to report to prison by March 12 but Dixon was taken into custody after the sentencing hearing.

Findley said Dixon wanted to begin serving his sentence immediately.

Moore's lawyer, Robert Harper, said he had no complaint about the sentence, just the conviction.

"We certainly appreciate it was a downward departure," Harper said.

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