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News Maryland Baltimore Crime Beat

Feds: Female corrections officers often seduced gang members at jail

Female corrections officers at the Baltimore jail were often the ones initiating relationships with gang members, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office - painting a more complicated picture of the sexual dynamic inside the facility.

Prosecutors made the claim in filings as they seek almost four years in prison for Taryn Kirkland, a former corrections officer who pleaded guilty to helping members of the Black Guerrilla Family smuggle drugs into the Baltimore City Detention Center. She is scheduled to be sentenced next Tuesday.

In previous documents, authorities have said that gang members targeted particular officers who they believed would be easy to manipulate. They would use sexual relationships to guarantee the loyalty of their watchers and win their help to smuggle drugs and other contraband.

Some gang members, including Tavon White, the BGF's leader at the jail, carried on multiple relationships -- White fathered children with four officers, according to court documents.

Kirkland's attorney, Charles N. Curlett Jr., argued that his client had fallen prey to gang member Steven Loney, who has also pleaded guilty.

"Indeed, in one revealing intercepted communication, Ms. Kirkland lamented to Loney that she 'should have just kept on walking' when he began approaching her," Curlett wrote.

But authorities contend that there is no evidence as to who seduced whom in Kirkland's case and wrote that witnesses who were interviewed as part of the case and who have testified to the grand jury said officers "often initiated liaisons" with gang members.

The prosecutors argue in the filings that the judge should reject Kirkland's attorney's calls for her to go easy on his client because she was manipulated by Loney.

"She was an independent actor and well-aware that she could get in trouble for smuggling and having sex with an inmate, and she behaved accordingly," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert R. Harding and Ayn B. Ducao wrote.

Brenda Smith, a professor at American University's Washington College of Law, told the Baltimore Sun in June that it was quite possible that the female officers were the ones initiating the relationships.

"We as a society are just not comfortable about thinking about women as independent sexual actors who would or could pursue a relationship," especially with someone in custody, she said.

And while the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office have focused on how the personal relationships helped further the BGF's criminal plans, Curlett wrote that much of what Kirkland and Loney talked about on his wiretapped phone had nothing to do with smuggling drugs.

"Instead, they are the stuff of any ordinary relationship, discussed over hours long phone conversations in the manner of adolescents who spend entire evenings on the telephone," Curlett wrote. "In fact, virtually all of the calls ended with each saying to the other 'I love you.'"

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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