Cops Guilty in Jailhouse Beating of Mentally Ill Inmate

Cops Guilty in Jailhouse Beating of Mentally Ill Inmate
File photo by Steven Straiton/Flickr

They tackled him, beat him with fists, kicked his genitals, pepper sprayed his eyes and then sent him off, shackled, for medical treatment.

The men who did it wore the badge of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

Yesterday a federal jury convicted the cops of "conspiracy to violate civil rights, deprivation of civil rights with bodily injury, and falsification of records," according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A.

Ex-deputies Bryan Brunsting, 31, and Jason Branum (aka Jason Johnson), 35, are part of a group of 21 former and current Sheriff's employees convicted as part of a federal investigation of corruption and civil rights violations committed during the tenures of Sheriff Lee Baca and Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

Baca pleaded guilty earlier this year to lying to a federal agent. Tanaka was convicted last month of conspiracy and obstructing an FBI investigation into the department's jail abuse problem.

Brunsting and Branum were found guilty following a one-week trial in U.S. District Court. The jury deliberated only for about an hour before deciding these were bad cops.

"The assault occurred after the inmate mouthed off to a civilian Sheriff’s Department employee," the U.S. Attorney's Office stated. "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 him a lesson.'"

The rookie, who was instructed to handcuff the inmate and send him to get treated after the beating, testified against the pair. 

"After the beating, Brunsting, Branum and the rookie deputy met to coordinate and falsify their stories," prosecutors alleged in the U.S. Attorney's statement. "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."

Police never lie.

Brunsting is a defendant in yet another case of alleged cop brutality, one that dates to Aug. 20, 2009. That alleged use of force also took place at the sheriff's Twin Towers Correctional Facility.

In this case, the duo was scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 22. They each face the possibility of 40 years in a place they know well — behind bars.

"The civil rights in the Constitution are guaranteed to everyone in the United States, even those who are being held in jail,” said the U.S. Attorney in L.A., 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."


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