By BILL KACZOR
Associated Press Writer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.- Lawyers for two prison guards charged in a contraband-for-sex scandal that ended in a deadly shootout told a jury Monday that the government's case relies on the testimony of inmates who are willing to lie in exchange for reduced sentences.
Gregory Dixon and Alan Moore, who both work at a federal prison for women, are accused of participating in a scheme to swap sex with female inmates for such commonplace items as gum, cigarettes and perfume. Both are charged with conspiracy and bribery. Dixon also is accused of witness tampering.
"You will hear a lot of nonsense from inmates all trying to punch their tickets home," said Thomas Findley, Dixon's lawyer, as the trial opened.
Authorities said the suspected plot ended June 21 in a shootout after prison guard Ralph Hill smuggled a gun into the Tallahassee Federal Correctional Institution and opened fire when FBI and Justice Department agents arrived to arrest him and other defendants. Hill and an FBI agent were killed.
Three guards have since pleaded guilty in the scheme, but none have been implicated in the shootout. Dixon and Moore have been suspended from their jobs.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Sprowls acknowledged his key witnesses are convicted felons but promised the jury that the government will introduce sufficient evidence to show the guards abused their authority for personal benefit.
He said the conspiracy, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, was not based on a formal agreement or even a handshake.
"This is going to be a much more subtle understanding. ... 'I'm not going to tell on you; you're not going to tell on me,'" Sprowls said.
Findley said his client has admitted to having sex with inmates but was not charged with that crime. He denied that Dixon was part of a conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and other crimes or that he traded contraband for sex.
Dixon shared gum with many prisoners "because he's a nice man," Findley said.
Moore has not admitted to having sex with inmates. His attorney, Robert Harper, questioned whether the government has a case.
"Where's the DNA? There isn't any," Harper said. "Where's the recording? Where is the videotape? There isn't any."