A federal jury today found a former state correction officer violated a former inmate's civil rights by using his position of power to have sex with the woman while she was incarcerated at the South Middlesex Correctional Center in Framingham.
Kelly A. Ryan, the superintendent of the facility, was also found liable for a violation of the woman’s civil rights.
The jury of 10 women awarded the former inmate, Christina Chao, 31, a total of $73,700 in damages.
''It’s been a long, long road for Christina, and I’m glad that she’s vindicated,'' said her attorney, Andrew M. Fischer, of Jason & Fischer of Boston. ''She needed to do this, to bring some sort of closure to what happened to her in prison.''
Fischer added, ''I think in the end she wanted to see justice done. And if a little window was opened into how prisons deal with prisoners, then she’s done some public good.''
Chao was sent to the women-only prison in 2003 after being convicted of drug charges. Soon after, she began a relationship with corrections officer Moises Ballista.
Ballista, who admitted at the start of the federal trial that he routinely had sex with female inmates, was convicted five years ago in state court on charges of having a sexual relationship with inmates. State law prohibits relations between inmates and officers, even if the sex is consensual.
But Ballista maintained in the federal civil trial that even if he was in violation of the state law, he should not be found liable for consensual sex. He said he had tried to break off their relations at least one time, but that Chao wanted them to continue.
Chao alleged that she felt pressured into sex, out of fear she would be disciplined.
Ryan was found liable for failing to prevent the sexual relations in spite of a history of accusations against Ballista, dating to before Chao was even sent to the prison.
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