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State to fight reinstatement of guard who posed nude

December 13, 2003|by DAVID DISHNEAU

The state plans to fight reinstatement of a prison guard who was fired after nude photos of her appeared in a magazine and on the Internet, a spokesman for the state prison agency said Friday.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services filed a petition for judicial review in Washington County Circuit Court Friday. On Thursday, the agency asked an administrative law judge to stay his order that it rehire Marcie Betts, 22, of Hagerstown.

The appeal will seek to overturn Administrative Law Judge D. Harrison Pratt's Nov. 12 ruling that Betts' First Amendment right to make and publish photographs of herself outweighed the impact those images might have on the state's ability to safely and efficiently run its prisons.

Betts expressed disbelief at the state's move. "I don't know why they are wasting taxpayer time and money on something they could solve as simply as letting me go back to work," she said.

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The state contended during a two-day hearing in September that inmates eventually would see the photos of Betts and perceive her as a "sex object." Betts would then be at greater risk of sexual assault or blackmail, which would jeopardize the safety of officers who might have to come to her aid, the state and its witnesses argued.

Pratt called the state's argument speculative and lacking in supporting evidence.

Betts testified she and her husband took the pictures in 2002, after she had taken a test for the prison job but before she was hired. She said she sold 81 pictures to a World Wide Web site, BurningAngel.com, for $300. One image was later published without her knowledge in Tabu Tattoo magazine, Betts said. She has a large tattoo of birds, flowers and a skull on her chest.

Betts lost her position at Roxbury Correctional Institution near Hagerstown on Jan. 29, two months after being hired as a correctional officer. She initially denied any knowledge of the photos when asked by a fellow officer and an inmate, according to testimony at her September hearing. A copy of Tabu Tattoo containing her picture was found in an inmate housing unit the day before she was fired, according to the case files.

Maryland prison inmates are allowed sexually explicit material, including magazines and photographs, but they cannot use computers connected to the Internet.

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