County jail guard convicted of sex offense, misconduct

January 16, 1998|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A veteran Baltimore County jail guard was convicted of sex offense and misconduct charges yesterday after a former inmate testified that the guard took her to a locked office in the detention center and sexually assaulted her.

Thomas E. Webb, a 14-year veteran jail guard, faces two other trials in Baltimore County Circuit Court on sexual assault charges filed by female inmates at the detention center.

A jury convicted Webb of a fourth-degree sex offense, assault, perverted sexual practice and misconduct in office.

But Webb, who could be sentenced to 20 years, was acquitted of second-degree sex offense.

The jury deliberated three hours after a four-day trial in which prosecutor John Cox presented testimony that evidence of Webb's DNA was on a T-shirt the victim said she wore during the attack last January.

Melisa Weber, a senior DNA analyst at Cellmark Diagnostics Inc., a forensics firm in Montgomery County, testified that several "genetic markers" extracted from the T-shirt matched Webb's DNA.

She also testified that she tested semen taken from the T-shirt, but found no sperm. Earlier, the prosecutor had presented evidence that Webb had had a vasectomy -- which would explain why his semen would contain no sperm.

Webb took the witness stand in his defense yesterday and denied the alleged attack. He said that he considered any sexual contact with a prisoner as having a "very high risk factor," that could cost him his job and his family.

The victim told jurors that he took her to a private office and assaulted her for more than a half-hour.

In answering questions from his lawyer, Lon C. Engel, Webb said he could not recall what he did the day of the attack, Jan. 7, 1997. He referred to detention center logs to explain where he was the evening of the attack.

Webb testified that at the time of the attack, detention center logs show he was locking and unlocking areas of the jail to let inmates put out their trash.

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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