LOS ANGELES – Two former deputies with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department were found guilty of violating the civil rights of a mentally ill jail inmate by beating, kicking and pepper spraying the victim after he showed disrespect to a jail employee.
Bryan Brunsting, 31, and Jason Branum (also known as Jason Johnson), 35, were each found guilty of three felony counts related to the unprovoked attack on March 22, 2010.
The evidence presented during a one-week trial in United States District Court showed that Brunsting and Branum assaulted the victim, who was an inmate at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles. The assault occurred after the inmate mouthed-off to a civilian Sheriff’s Department employee. Brunsting, who was a training officer assigned to a rookie deputy who had just started working at the jail, told his trainee that they were going to “teach [the inmate] him a lesson.”
Brunsting, Branum and the rookie deputy brought the victim out of the visiting area and directed him to a locked hallway without any surveillance cameras. Once in the hallway, the inmate realized he was going to be assaulted and began to run. The victim was tackled. Brunsting and Branum then beat the victim with fists, kicked him in the genitals and sprayed him in the eyes with pepper spray. Once other deputies arrived, they instructed the rookie deputy to handcuff the victim before he was led away for medical treatment.
After the beating, Brunsting, Branum and the rookie deputy met to coordinate and falsify their stories. The rookie deputy testified that he was told what to say and how to write his report. As prosecutors argued at trial, the reports submitted by Brunsting and the rookie were strikingly similar, and were written to justify the use of force by falsely claiming that the victim had attempted to punch the rookie.
“The civil rights in the Constitution are guaranteed to everyone in the United States, even those who are being held in jail,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “A violation of any civil right is a crime against the United States and affects the nation’s entire citizenry, which is why we will tirelessly work to prosecute civil rights violations, especially when they are committed by people who have sworn to uphold the Constitution.”
After approximately one hour of deliberations, the jury convicted Brunsting and Branum of conspiracy to violate civil rights, deprivation of civil rights with bodily injury, and falsification of records for preparing reports that tried to justify their use of force against the victim.
United States District Judge George W. Wu is scheduled to sentence the two defendants on August 22, at which time they each will face a statutory maximum penalty of 40 years in federal prison.
Brunsting still faces civil rights charges in relation to another alleged use-of-force incident on August 20, 2009 at Twin Towers, and he is scheduled to go on trial later this year. It is important to note that Brunsting is only charged in relation to the 2009 incident and is considered to be innocent of these charges until he is proven guilty in court.
The case against Brunsting and Branum is the result of an investigation by the FBI, and is one in a series of cases resulting from an investigation into corruption and civil rights abuses at county jail facilities in downtown Los Angeles. 21 current or former members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department have now been convicted of federal charges.