Ex-jail guard found liable in sex lawsuit

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / April 7, 2011

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A federal jury has found a former state correction officer liable in a civil rights lawsuit filed by a former inmate who said the officer used his position of power to have sexual relations with her while she was incarcerated.

Christina Chao, 31, was sent to South Middlesex Correctional Center in Framingham in 2003 after being convicted on drug charges. She soon began a relationship with the correction officer, Moises Ballista.

Kelly A. Ryan, superintendent of the women’s jail, was also found liable for a violation of Chao’s civil rights.

The jury of 10 women awarded Chao $73,700 in damages.

“It’s been a long, long road for Christina, and I’m glad that she’s vindicated,’’ said her lawyer, 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.’’

Ballista, who admitted at the start of the federal trial that he routinely had sexual relations 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 consent is sexual.

But Ballista maintained that, even if he was in violation of state law, the sex with Chao was consensual. He said he had tried to break off their relationship at least one time, but that Chao wanted them to continue.

Chao said she felt pressured into the sexual relations 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 that extended back before Chao was sent to the jail.

Milton Valencia can be reached at